Based on the 2003 memoir by best-selling author Jon Katz, A Dog Year
tells the story of a 50-something writer (Oscar® winner Jeff Bridges) in mid-existential crisis, who impulsively agrees to adopt a high-strung border collie named Devon. At first, the dog wreaks chaos on a suburban household Jon shares with two older, mellower Labs. But as Jon learns to let go of the hostility in his own personality, he finds his ability to train and communicate with Devon much easier. Ultimately, the experience transforms both man and dog in meaningful, unexpected ways.
From Old Yeller
to Marley and Me
, movies about people and their dogs have a built-in appeal as long as they contain the basic elements--like funny canine high jinks, a few adorable "aww" moments, and, of course, the opportunity for a good healthy cry. So it is with the slight but winning A Dog Year
, author Jon Katz's tale of his relationship with an errant border collie named Devon. When we meet Katz (Jeff Bridges), he's at the airport, having agreed (for reasons not very well illuminated, as is the case with a number of story elements) to add Devon to a brood that already includes two lovely golden retrievers, Stanley and Julius. The dog instantly escapes and runs amok through the terminal--a sure sign of things to come, as he was apparently abused by his previous owner and Katz, whose daughter is away at school and whose wife has temporarily left home, is afflicted with severe writer's block and is too angry and stubborn to train the dog properly. After "the dog from hell," as Jon calls him, proceeds to tear up the house, chase cars, and such, Katz threatens to send him back. But we know that won't happen, especially when the aging Stanley's heart starts to let him down. Soon Katz has relocated to a squalid farmhouse in the country, where he eats butter and processed cheese sandwiches, sleeps on a bare mattress, stares at a blank computer screen, and finally connects with a trainer (Lois Blair) who points out that it's Jon, not Devon, who really needs fixing. Bridges is perfectly cast in this curmudgeonly role, the dogs are all adorable, and while there are no surprises, A Dog Year
will surely find favor with dog lovers everywhere. --Sam Graham