Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)

Whether you found him, or he found you, who's to say?

The story begins with  Professor Parker Wilson (Richard Gere) bringing home an abandoned dog he found at the train station.  With certainty that the owner will return to claim the dog, he keeps the dog against his wife, Cate's (Joan Allen) wishes.  

Parker approaches his good friend, Ken, for help reading a tag with Japanese words on it that was on the broken cage from which the dog broke out of, at the train station.  Nothing much could be made out of the tag, except that the dog came from a part of Central Japan.  Ken begins explaining that this dog is of a special breed (Akita) that has been associated with royalty.  Ken finds a tag on the dog, with the Japanese symbol "八", read as "hachi", meaning the number "eight"(a number of good fortune, of "spiritual significance, reaches to the heavens, and comes down to earth").  As days go by, a very special bond was forged between the dog and the Professor which softens even Cate's tough stance about not keeping the dog.

Fast forward to a few years later, with the dog all grown up.  Hachi faithfully walks with its master to the train station everyday before going home on its own, and also goes to the train station every evening upon hearing the train arriving in town, to wait for its master to return from work.  Parker complains to Ken that Hachi does not do regular dog tricks like fetching a ball and Ken reveals that Hachi will only do it for a very special reason.

One morning as Parker departs for work, Hachi refused to walk his master to the train station for unknown reasons to Parker.  Parker sets off for the train station without Hachi, and Hachi eventually appears at the train station, fetching a ball to Parker.  After playing with Hachi for a while, Parker sets off for work as usual.  However, he suffered from a heart attack at work and passes on.  Hachi however, was waiting faithfully at the train station for Parker's return, but to no avail.

The house in which Parker and Cate lived in was sold, and Hachi was entrusted with Andy, their daughter.  Andy understood Hachi's loyalty to her father and decided to let it go.  Hachi returns to the train station and takes up its usual spot, faithfully waiting for Parker's return.  Hachi's wellbeing was being taken care of by people at the train station who were friends of Parker, and it maintained the daily routine of waiting for its master's return for almost 10 years before passing away.

A very simple and heartwarming story that brought tears to my eyes.  The symbolism of how special the dog was, with its name, as well as the action of fetching a ball to its master, was very well played out in the film.  Definitely worth watching!

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