Director Yoichi Sai portrays a Labrador Retriever’s life as a seeing-eye dog, from puppy through retirement. Quill is the star of this modest drama that is beige in all too many ways. Like his creamy fur, most of the clothing of the people who train and love him is the same comfortable shade. So too the furnishings. Tonally, “Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog” is even-tempered. There is no “Old Yeller”-like tragedy, “Lassie”-like adventure or the laughs and tears of “Marley & Me.” The humor is gentle: Quill goes cross-eyed when a caterpillar crawls across his nose. Pathos is mild for the two deaths in the plot co-authored by Shoichi Maruyama and Yoshihiro Nakamura, working from a 2001 book by writer Kengo Ishiguro and photographer Ryohei Akimoto. This 2004 film from Japan tries to teach a little about dog training. An ancient drawing in Vesuvius, we hear, shows a guide dog. Quill learns the words “curb,” “corner,” “go,” “straight,” “left” and “right.” “Why English?” asks his human companion, a cranky disability activist whose test run with Quill is an errand to petition city hall for beeping traffic lights. “Because Japanese can be confusing,” explains a trainer. There is no opportunity for this film to confuse anyone. Not even its warm affection for dogs and dog fans can offend as too bland. With Kaoru Kobayashi, Kippei Shiina, Teruyuki Kagawa, Keiko Toda. 100m. (Bill Stamets)
“Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog” opens Friday at the Music Box
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.