I am a cat person through and through. I like dogs well enough, but I never thought I wanted to watch a movie from a dog’s perspective. The only reason I agreed to watch Lasse Hallström’s “A Dog’s Purpose” (based on W. Bruce Cameron’s book of the same name) is because my canine-loving friend was having a bad day. I didn’t want to enjoy the movie, and I certainly didn’t want to weep throughout seventy-five percent of it, but alas! My wants were irrelevant in that dark theater. Hallström presents a maelstrom of feelings with this one and, of course, adorable dogs.
“A Dog’s Purpose” is about a dog, named Bailey, searching for his purpose in a large, confusing world. We get to see several of Bailey’s lives—which means we get to see several of his deaths as well—and follow along as he serves loyally at each owner’s side, with a delightful voice over to let us know what’s going on inside Bailey’s head.
It seems like a simple story, and, in some ways, it is. I won’t deny that this film has cliché and predictable moments, but that doesn’t mean it is without complexities. For a large portion of the film, Bailey grows up alongside Ethan, a little boy who saves him from dehydration in a hot vehicle. Bailey is Ethan’s best friend. As Ethan enters his teen years, his life becomes more complicated—with his family, girls and sports—but Bailey still loves him unconditionally. This is one of the most heart-warming friendships I’ve ever witnessed in film and I became more invested in it than I care to admit. When their time together came to an end, I lost any composure I was maintaining. I couldn’t collect myself, either. Each new death Bailey experienced tore me to pieces all over again.
As much as I loved Bailey’s life with Ethan, I thoroughly enjoyed his other lives as well. We get to see a nice diverse cast of characters and lifestyles, from police drug dog to lonely girl’s comfort animal. It was precious to see the different ways this dog affects the people he loves.
While it’s admittedly strange to go on a journey of self-discovery with a dog, Hallström manages to make it poignant and insightful. I think it would be quite challenging not to be charmed by this movie—trust me, I tried. If, for whatever reason, you need a good cry, this is probably the film you want to turn to. I experienced a lot of emotions throughout, but I left the theater feeling genuinely joyful and satisfied.