There’s no denying that “Patrick” is absolutely adorable. When a story revolves around a four-legged furry friend — a squishy, huggable pug, at that — that much is to be expected. However, what makes director Mandie Fletcher’s canine-centered romantic comedy work is its ability to engage in between the oh-so-cute closeups of the bug-eyed pup. Though the narrative tends to be a touch too simplistic for most grown-ups, and lacks enough riotous dog action for the little ones, there’s enough bite to make things worthwhile for those who just want to enjoy a sweet, wholesome dog movie.
Sarah’s (Beattie Edmondson) life is in shambles. Her boyfriend has just left her stranded in a new apartment without knowing a soul in the neighborhood. Her entire family thinks she’s turning into a spinster since all her romantic relationships end in woe. She’s depressed and questioning what love has in store for her. Her answer arrives in the form of a cute, cuddly, and very spoiled pug named Patrick. Sarah’s grandmother died unexpectedly, leaving behind her special companion and his very stylish wardrobe. Since no one else in Sarah’s family can handle the precocious pooch, she’s reluctantly forced into dog ownership. Her new job as pet parent includes waking up early, coaxing him to do his business quickly, and feeding him special meals.
Patrick doesn’t make the transition an easy one for Sarah. He’s a troublemaker. His separation anxiety causes him to wreak havoc on his new owner’s lifestyle, tearing up her possessions and alerting the landlord to his unwanted presence. His rambunctious behavior almost gets Sarah’s sweet elderly neighbor Celia (Gemma Jones) and her well-behaved pup Wendy evicted. Sarah, who already doesn’t love dogs, let alone Patrick, is at a loss figuring out a daily care plan for him while she’s busy at work. How are these two ever going to get along? The answer: with lots of patience, compromise, and help from friends.
Subtle sentiments about how owning a dog can enrich humanity, bringing innumerable benefits to the community, are delicately woven into the fabric of the film. Sarah’s life changes for the better once Patrick enters the picture. Even if it’s due to sheer biological needs, he gets her outside to socialize with other dog owners. He also pushes her to be more open toward new experiences like exercise and caring for others beyond herself.
The story doesn’t contain a whole lot of manufactured or contrived conflict, making it a breezy watch. It’s light-hearted, but that’s to its detriment, as it could use a bit more complexity. When Sarah is put into a tough predicament, being displaced due to her strict lease, she’s easily bailed out by her work colleague Becky (Emily Atack). While this speaks to the power of Patrick’s positive influence on Sarah’s life, it would’ve been more dramatic to include some character-building struggle on her part.
That said, Vanessa Davies, Paul de Vos, and Mandie Fletcher’s screenplay avoids some of the expected genre trappings. Sarah has a meet-cute with two different men at the park — cute, scruffy Ben (Tom Bennett) and hot veterinarian Oliver (Ed Skrein). When Oliver turns out to be insufferable and arrogant, she’s given an empowering moment. The filmmakers also dispose of the cliché “two guys fight over one girl” scenario early on. Adults might appreciate this fresh spin on the romantic comedy formula, but younger viewers looking for “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”-style shenanigans might be bored.
Building the soundtrack around a series of Amy Macdonald songs gives voice to Sarah’s struggles and surprises. Michael Price’s score furthers the Richard Curtis-inspired romance and folly. His swelling string arrangements support the scenes, but never feel pushy.
Sure, the third act stretches audience believability that Patrick — after unwittingly stowing away on a boat while chasing a cat — can make his way back home, and from there find his way to Sarah’s “Fun Run” (which is this film’s “chase to the airport” sequence). But by this point, “Patrick” has won over audiences as well as his new owner, and it’s easy to play along.