I add movies to my Netflix queue and then forget about them. Getting the DVDs has become somewhat like opening a fortune cookie. I know there will be something inside but I don’t know what it will be. When I opened up the red envelope to find Hachi: A Dog’s Tale I was relieved because I’d read it was a heartwarming story and I wasn’t in the mood for anything dark. I was also curious to see this film starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen that had gone straight to DVD.

Gere is Parker Wilson a music professor who finds a lost puppy at the train station on his way home one night. He brings the puppy back to his house but his wife Cate (Joan Allen) insists he cannot keep the dog. Parker and his daughter Andy (Sarah Roemer) are instantly smitten with the dog and despite putting up flyers around town and a half-hearted attempt to find the dog another home it’s clear he isn’t going anywhere.

Parker learns through his friend and fellow professor Ken (Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa) that the dog is an Akita, a Japanese breed and the symbol on the tag around his neck stands for lucky number 8—Hachiko.

As Parker and Hachi bond, the story appears to violate one of the basic rules of filmmaking, which is that there must be conflict. Instead, through their relationship it creates a portrait of the everyday life of a family and typical suburban town that at its essence is about the richness of the simple things in life. Parker’s life is filled in as we see him interacting with his wife of 25 years, meeting his daughter’s nervous boyfriend, and teaching. We watch his daily routine as he travels back and forth from the train station and meet the regulars he encounters everyday: the station agent, the coffee vendor who knows his order by heart and the bookstore owner.

The beauty of the film is the deft of hand with which director Lasse Hallström lets the story unfold with an ease and unhurried quality. The apparent lack of conflict is a purposeful part of the design that effectively disarms and sneaks up on the viewer. Like a modern day Our Town the universal themes of life that we all share and yearn for of family, love, loyalty, and community quietly come alive. It is through Hachi’s eyes that we see life for the gift that it is in all its ordinariness.

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is profoundly and deeply affecting in a way that I was completely unprepared for and did not expect. All the reasons why this movie went straight to DVD are what make it such an exceptional experience. There are no superheroes or explosions, no gimmicks or cerebral twists. What this film does create is a beautiful all encompassing view about the cyclical nature of our existence and the overwhelming power of love, remembrance and the spirit.

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