Being a dog lover, Mike White’s charming and equally poignant Year of the Dog won me over with its sincerity. The film works as a dramedy, but it’s not very funny nor does it dive into dark or disturbing humor, yet its ultimately a refreshing experience. White wrote the great School of Rock, the haunting Chuck and Buck, and the disappointing Nacho Libre, but Dog marks his directing debut. Here, he puts less emphasis on dynamic visuals but gives spades of attention toward acting and pacing, most notably in the arc of Molly Shannon’s uncertain, repressed canine loving protagonist and Peter Sarsgaard’s equally layered love interest.
It’s great to see a writer turned director stick with his roots and expand his obsessions. I’m going to stay away from story since the beauty of this film lies largely in how it grows on the viewer. Year of the Dog, while often too quirky and a bit long, is an endearing and wonderfully written story about finding yourself, and having the courage to stick up for what makes you happy, no matter how strange it seems to everyone else. Now there’s a message Hollywood ignores far too often.