Walking With the Dog

Japanese helmer Makoto Shinozaki blends his experience with both features and docus into this genial meller about a man whose life is redeemed by the pooch. Filmed prior to this year's local mega-hit, "Quill" -- about a guide dog for the blind -- pic failed to duplicate that film's success. Would sit comfortably in kidfests or Asian-friendly events.

With:
With: Naoki Tanaka, Ryo, Yoko Fujita, Yumi Yoshimura, Jin Katagiri, Tomio Aoki.

Japanese helmer Makoto Shinozaki blends his experience with both features (“Okaeri,” 1996) and docus (“Jam Session,” 1999) into this genial meller about a man whose life is redeemed by the pooch. Filmed prior to this year’s local mega-hit, “Quill” — about a guide dog for the blind — “Walking With the Dog” failed to duplicate that film’s success. Still, pic would sit comfortably in kidfests or Asian-friendly events.

Dumped by a bored pet owner, a mixed-breed mutt ends up with three-time loser Yasuyuki (Naoki Tanaka), who’s loveless, homeless and jobless. Yasuyuki finds solace in the dog, whom he calls Tamura, and uses it to mend fences with his ex, who’s distracted by her mother’s debilitating illness. A trip to a hospital reveals Tamura’s ability to comfort dying patients, leading to dog and master attending the real-life Japanese Therapy Dogs Assn. training school, where docu elements temporarily hijack the film’s narrative. Movie buffs will enjoy seeing vet actor Tomio Aoki, from Yasujiro Ozu’s 1932 silent “I Was Born But,” in his last screen role.

Walking With the Dog

Japan

Production: An Argo Pictures production, in association with Hachama, Cinevision 2000. (International sales: Argo, Tokyo.) Produced by Yataka Okada. Directed by Makoto Shinozaki. Screenplay, Kei Shichiri.

Crew: Camera (color), Kenji Hagiwara; editor, Yasuto Higuchi; music, Yasushiro Nagashima; production designer, Teru Yamazaki. Reviewed at Puchon Fantastic Film Festival, South Korea, July 18, 2004. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: With: Naoki Tanaka, Ryo, Yoko Fujita, Yumi Yoshimura, Jin Katagiri, Tomio Aoki.

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