Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
|Genre||Biography, Drama, Family|
|Content Rating||G (G)|
|Awards||Top Rated Movies #213 | 1 nomination.|
|Company||Stage 6 Films, Inferno Distribution, Hachiko|
Hachi: A Dog's Tale
Hachi: A Dog's Tale is a 2009 American drama film that is an adaptation of the 1987 Japanese film Hachikō Monogatari. The original film told the true story of the Akita dog named Hachikō who lived in Japan in the 1920s. This version, which places it in a modern American context, was directed by Lasse Hallström, written by Stephen P. Lindsey and Kaneto Shindo, and produced by Richard Gere, Bill Johnson and Vicki Shigekuni Wong. The film stars Gere, Joan Allen, Sarah Roemer, Jason Alexander and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.
Hachi: A Dog's Tale premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 13, 2009, and its first theatrical release was in Japan on August 8, 2009. The film was given a UK theatrical release on March 12, 2010, courtesy of Entertainment Film Distributors, and opened in more than 60 countries throughout 2009 and 2010. By the end of September 2010, the film's foreign box office returns had totalled more than $45 million. Sony Pictures Entertainment decided to forgo a U.S. theatrical release, bringing the film out on DVD on March 9, 2010 and eventually selling it to the Hallmark Channel, where it debuted on September 26, 2010.
When Ronnie gives a presentation at school about a personal hero, he tells the story of his grandfather and his dog, Hachiko.
Parker Wilson, a professor of music who commutes to nearby Providence, Rhode Island, finds a lost puppy on the station platform in Bedridge and takes him home for the night. (The audience sees that it was freighted from a Japanese monastery to the United States and that the basket's tag was torn in transit.)
The puppy remains unclaimed, and the two grow close while he takes it everywhere with him. Ken, a Japanese professor friend, tells Parker that the dog is a breed called an Akita and that the Japanese character on his collar tag is the number eight—"hachi". Parker's wife, Cate, eventually warms to the dog—but Hachi sleeps outside in his own shed.
One spring morning, Hachi, now grown, digs under the fence and follows Parker to the station. He refuses to go home; Parker misses the train. He leaves Hachi with Cate and gets the next one. That afternoon, Hachi hears the train horn and jumps the fence. Parker is surprised to find Hachi waiting for him and even more surprised to learn that he has not been waiting all day. The dog somehow knew when Parker was due home. A daily routine begins: They walk to the station together, Hachi goes home, and he returns when Parker's train is due, at 5 p.m.
Parker tries in vain to train Hachi to do normal dog things like fetching. Amused, Ken explains that Akitas cannot be bought. If Hachi fetches, it will be for a special reason. When their daughter Andy marries Michael, Hachi is in the family wedding photo. Eventually, Andy announces that she is pregnant.
One winter morning, Hachi behaves strangely, but then follows Parker to the station with a ball, and, to Parker's delight, fetches it for the first time. After they play for a while, Parker puts the ball in his pocket. Hachi barks and barks and watches the train leave. Parker is holding the ball when he suffers a fatal stroke in his classroom and dies. Hachi waits. At 9:30 p.m., Michael comes to get him. From his shed, Hachi watches the family. While Parker's human friends and family gather at his funeral, Hachi goes to the station to wait.
Cate sells the house and moves away. Hachi goes to live with Andy and Michael and their baby, Ronnie. One day, he escapes and follows the train tracks to Bedridge. Andy and Michael find him and bring him home, but Andy realizes the dog is pining for Parker and opens the gate. He licks her hand and runs to the station.
Every day at 5 p.m., Hachi waits for his best friend. The hot dog seller, Jasjeet, and others feed him. After a reporter writes a story about him, people send cards and money to the station. Ken reads the piece and comes to town to help, only to learn how the community loves Hachi. Ken speaks to Hachi in Japanese: He too, misses his friend.
On the tenth anniversary of Parker's death, Cate returns to visit her husband's grave. Ken is there, too. She is moved to see a now-elderly Hachi taking his usual position at the station. At home during Christmas, Cate tells the ten-year-old Ronnie about Hachi and Parker, while the dog slowly settles in place. We see flashbacks of Parker and Hachi together, and then a last passenger pauses in the door. It is Parker, who calls "Hachi!" The old dog raises his head, and we see him run into Parker's embrace. A bright light fills the screen and Hachi lies, motionless, his waiting over. The camera pans up to the night sky as Ronnie narrates that Hachi and his grandfather taught him the meaning of loyalty, that you should never forget anyone you have loved.
In the present, the class applauds. At the school bus, Ronnie is met by his dad and a tiny new puppy which they've also named Hachi. The film ends with Ronnie and the puppy walking down the same tracks Hachi traveled years ago.
- Layla, Chico and Forrest – Hachi
- Richard Gere – Professor Parker Wilson; Cate's husband, Andy's father, Michael's father-in-law, and Ronnie's maternal grandfather.
- Joan Allen – Cate Wilson; Parker's wife, Andy's mother, Michael's mother-in-law, and Ronnie's maternal grandmother.
- Erick Avari – Jasjeet; an Indian hot dog cart vendor.
- Jason Alexander – Carl Boilins; the train station master. Alexander previously co-starred with Gere in 1990's Pretty Woman.
- Sarah Roemer – Andy Wilson; Parker and Cate's daughter, Michael's wife, and Ronnie's mother.
- Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa – Ken Fujiyoshi; professor of Japanese and Parker's friend.
- Robbie Collier Sublett – Michael; Parker and Cate's son-in-law, Andy's husband, and Ronnie's father.
- Davenia McFadden – Mary-Ann; the bookstore owner.
- Kevin DeCoste – Ronnie; Michael and Andy's son and Parker and Cate's grandson.
- Tora Hallström – Heather; one of Ronnie's classmate.
The end credits include a disclaimer warning that "Although beloved by many as a family pet, Akitas are recommended only for dedicated and experienced dog owners," referring viewers to the American Humane Society and the American Kennel Club for more information.
When David Itzkoff wrote about the film in a September 24, 2010, article headlined "Film has Two Big Names and a Dog but No Big Screens", he reported that Sony refused to comment on its decision not to release the picture to theaters in the United States.
The color in scenes filmed from the dog's point of view is desaturated almost to black-and-white. Although there are several scenes from Hachiko's POV, the film never puts human dialogue in Hachiko's mind/mouth.
Animal trainer Mark Harden and his team trained the three Akitas—Layla, Chico and Forrest—who played the role of Hachi in the movie. Harden adopted Chico after the movie was completed. Trainer David Allsberry adopted Layla after the shoot. New York Times reporter David Itzkoff repeated Richard Gere's description of the challenging process of getting to know his canine co-stars:
There was, Mr. Gere said, "a certain amount of anxiety, of would we get along? They cannot be bought." But after about three days, he said, "One of the dogs came over and put her head right on my lap. And that was a big moment - I was accepted in the pack."
The movie was based on the real Japanese Akita dog Hachiko, who was born in Ōdate, Japan, in 1923. After the death of his owner, Ueno Hidesaburō in 1925, Hachiko returned to the Shibuya train station the next day and every day after that for the next nine years until he died in March 1935. A bronze statue of Hachiko is in front of the Shibuya train station in his honor, in the spot where he waited. Hachikō is known in Japanese as chūken Hachikō (忠犬ハチ公) "faithful dog Hachikō", hachi meaning "eight" and kō meaning "affection." The film ends with a text panel summarizing the story of the real Hachiko, a photo of the dog and a shot of the bronze statue. According to the movie's closing cards, the real Hachiko died in March 1934, while the earlier movie, Hachikō Monogatari, and other sources state that his actual death was on March 1935 (9 years and 9 months after Professor Ueno's death).
The majority of filming took place in Bristol, Rhode Island, and Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The only spoken reference to the actual location where filming took place is when the newspaper reporter Teddy states he works for the Woonsocket Call (Woonsocket's daily newspaper).
Additional locations included the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island, along the Providence and Worcester Railroad Mechanical, and the Columbus Theater located in Providence, Rhode Island. A second production unit filmed scenes on-location in Japan. Footage was shot at the (now closed) Reynolds Elementary School in Bristol.
In October 2009, Christopher Lloyd of the Sarasota Herald Tribune gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, noting: "Hachi: A Dog's Tale is unapologetically a tear-jerker. You might resent being emotionally manipulated by this film, but I challenge even the most hard-hearted moviegoer not to spill some saltwater while watching it."
In June 2009, Variety's Alissa Simon described the film as a "Sentimental, repetitive tale... back to the values, production and otherwise, of an earlier era. It’s family-friendly rather than family fare; kids are likely to be bored stiff. Even so, the dog's silent distress and dignity will move all but the hardest hearts. pic's main problem is that its human story lacks drama; Hachi's the central attraction."
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 64% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 28 reviews, with an average rating of 5.88/10.
On May 19, 2012, a bronze replica of the original Hachiko statue was placed at the train depot at Woonsocket Depot Square, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where the movie was filmed. The train depot at One Depot Square was renamed Hachiko Place. The Rhode Island statue's dedication ceremony was part of the Cherry Blossom Festival held in three Rhode Island towns: Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket. Dignitaries including the Mayor of Woonsocket and the Consul General of Japan attended the ceremony. Two cherry blossom trees were planted by the statue. A visitor from New Jersey's Akita-mix (also named Hachi) was invited to participate at the ribbon-cutting ceremony as a "real-life stand-in for Hachiko".
The Blackstone Valley Heritage Corridor and the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council have created a handout with useful info for people who want to take a tour of the movie locations for "Hachi".
The ending credits give 2008 as the copyright for the movie.
In commemoration of the daily vigil, a lone statue of Hachiko was erected in front of Shibuya Station in 1934, even while the canine was still alive. In another realm, Ueno and Hachiko reunited, must be looking down at the statue with a smile.
The film score of Hachi was composed by Jan A. P. Kaczmarek.