Chosen to become a guide dog because of his even temperament and intelligence, a yellow Labrador named Quill is taken from his mother as a puppy and sent to a training center. There, the lovable mutt eventually gets partnered with a grumpy blind man (Kaoru Kobayashi) who resents the idea of being led around by an animal. Inevitably, he’s won over by his canine companion’s warmth and loyalty. All together now: Awwwwww.
With its animal protagonist passed from one person to the next on his journey from birth to death, Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog suggests a super adorbs version of Robert Bresson’s crypto-Christian pet parable Au Hasard Balthazar. And while it may not possess the worldly insight of Bresson’s masterpiece, this Japanese film does capture the powerful connection between human and dog. This inspired-by-a-true-story tale is often shamelessly manipulative (such as when our protagopooch contemplates the dead body of one of its owners at said master’s funeral), but its best moments show us the way man’s best friends guide us in more than just a physical sense. The real star is Rafie, the golden pup that plays Quill; dogs can be taught to sit or lie down, but they can’t fake the sort of connection he makes with the people around him.
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