Hachikō – A Dog’s Story (& a Lesson for Mankind)
I believe that remaking of foreign films mar their purity because it puts an onus on commercialization rather than simply relating a story. However, I will make an exception for Hachikō: A Dog’s Story, the 2009 remake of a 1987 Japanese film “Hachikō Monogatari” which was based on the true story of the faithful Akita, Hachikō.
The film was written by Kaneto Shindo and directed by Seijiro Kayama while the remake is rewritten by Stephen P. Lindsey and directed by Swedish director Lasse Hallström.
The story is about an Akita named Hachi (the Japanese word for eight) who is found by Parker Wilson (Richard Gere), a college professor. His wife Cate, played by Joan Allen from The Bourne Trilogy, insists that they cannot keep the dog. However, seeing how close Parker becomes to the dog, she accepts him into the family.
Taking the dog to his Japanese colleague Ken (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), he learns that the dog is an Akita, a breed kept the Shoguns and highly regarded in Japanese society.
True to its nature, Hachi is unlike ordinary dogs – he does not play fetch. Ken explains that he will only do this on a very special occasion much to the astonishment of Andy’s boyfriend Michael (Robbie Sublett).
Andy, played by Sarah Roemer from Disturbia, is the professor’s daughter.
The professor and his canine companion form a bond unlike any other. Every morning Hachi escorts him to train station where he boards and goes to work. Every evening after work, the loyal canine comes back to retrieve his master – until one fateful evening his master does not return.
Richard Gere is absolutely wonderful in this film, and probably his best since “Shall We Dance?” His energy, charisma and onscreen chemistry with the canines (3 were used to play different stages of Hachi’s life) were spellbinding.
It was so believable that I felt like going out to adopt a dog – but not just any breed – an Akita. If you have seen “Marley & Me” then you’ve got a fair idea of the relationship between the professor and Hachi. Fortunately, it is not as destructive.
The story is told by Andy’s son Ronnie to his fellow classmates. He begins by telling them that his hero is his grandfather’s dog Hachi and then regales them with full details.
Unlike Marley & Me, we get to see what the dog is seeing which gives sort of an insight into the canine’s thoughts. Most of which gives a comedic aspect to this touching drama like the scene where Hachi is introduced to Michael by Parker.
This takes place beside a barbecue and we see the canine’s attention fixed on the steak.
At the end of the film we are shown a snapshot of the statue of the real Hachi at the Shibuya train station and a brief but touching history.
The real Hachi was born Odatae in 1923 and died in 1935. After his master died in 1925, Hachi returned to the train station every day for the next nine years.
As a family drama, this film is bound to make your heart sing and your eyes water.