Written & Directed by Paul & Sandra Fierlinger
Whether you are a dog person or a cat person, the bottom line is you probably enjoy a companion, whatever form that companion may come in. For J.R. Ackerley, it was Tulip, his Alsatian. Ackerley’s memoir, on which this film is based, was a bestseller and largely thanks to the droves of people who appreciated his candor on the matters of owning a pet, the good with the bad, and especially the strange. The narrative of the film follows Ackerley as he gets to know his new friend, Tulip, and all the naughty and natural things she does and requires.
The film does not shy away from the honest truth of the situation, it covers every bit of dog ownership in full detail. From the cleaning up of the dog’s poop, to her desire to mate, nothing is out of bounds for this film, and that kind of honesty is refreshing. It depicts the natural beauty of that which humans often find taboo or grotesque in a casual matter-of-fact manner. And that is what makes the film work as well as it does. In addition, the unfinished style of the animation mirrors the raw simplicity of the story. It does not surpass 90 minutes and it doesn’t have to because the story it is telling is so simple.
Despite the idea of a tale about a man and his dog, told in animated style, the film is not for kids, a sentiment that has been mirrored by droves of other critics. The subject matter is just too forward for kids audiences. Not only that, but the narrative is also very lyrical, describing in detail the every day affairs of Ackerley and his pup. I am sure that these episodes are quite faithful to the memoir, so sure, in fact, that I fear that I needn’t seek out the memoir for any further detail. There is often a fuss made when a film changes things to a book, but I fear the opposite here.
The story being told seems much better suited to the memoir form, which means that while it may be interesting, I don’t think it lends itself too well to the visual medium, at least not when the adaptation is done in such a bland manner. I really can’t complain too much past that minor quibble. It is a well made little film with some really refreshing methods and ideas. It just wasn’t something that grabbed me at any point during the film.