THE LOVE OF A DOG
GET THE TISSUES READY FOR A FILM THAT CAPTURES THE SPIRIT OF MAN’S BEST FRIEND
ADog’s Purpose is the story of Bailey, a golden retriever who finds his way into the loving arms of eight-year-old Ethan. They share a close bond and happy life, but as nature takes its course, Bailey passes on – but that’s not the end.
The story continues to follow Bailey as he is reincarnated into the bodies of many different dogs, belonging to many different owners, until he is reunited with Ethan again. While the film is full of joy and love, the plot was born from grief.
Author and film writer of A Dog’s Purpose William Bruce Cameron was dating a woman who had just lost her dog and was overcome with grief.
“We were driving up the California coast on the 101 freeway, and I was hurting for her,” he says.
“Out of nowhere, as if I downloaded it off the internet, this story came into my head about a dog who doesn’t actually die, but is reborn again and again and again, and develops the sense that there might be some purpose why this is happening.”
As fate would have it, the passenger Cameron was consoling was his future wife – as well as one of his fellow A Dog’s Purpose screenwriters – Cathryn Michon.
“On our way to the Bay Area, we stopped to get a latte, and when I came back to the car Bruce told me he had a story to tell me ... and that it was going to be his next book,” she says of that day.
“He told this story for 90 minutes straight, and by the end of it I was completely in a puddle I was crying so much.”
William was faced with the tough task of watching dogs, analysing their behaviour and how they interact with each other and humans – basically he got to hang out with dogs and call it research.
“The most important thing I did in researching the book was not reading about dogs, but going to the dog park and seeing how they behave,” he says.
“Dogs have a crazy social structure. Two dogs will be best friends, but when a third dog comes in the dynamic changes instantly. It is 10 times worse than middle school.”
To write like a dog, William had to think like a dog – and there are right and wrong ways to do it. “I’m dealing with a dog, and a dog isn’t going to be thinking in complicated metaphors,” he says.
“A dog is going to be mostly about nouns, much less about adverbs. Its vocabulary is generally limited to around 40 or 50 words, and I wanted to write from the perspective of a real dog and not a dog that could understand English.”
While of course an audience’s suspension of disbelief is essential for watching a movie that communicate a dog’s thoughts, strong direction is also crucial to walk that fine line between being believable and being laughable.
Lasse Hallström has found himself in somewhat of a directorial dog niche, with My Life as a Dog and Hachi already on his resume.
“Ultimately, the one rule we had was that the dog could not speak on camera,” he says.
“With the narration, the dog’s thoughts have human elements to it, and I have become more and more caught up in the idea of reincarnation because of this film.
“But whether the possibility is real or not ... who knows. The point is to be open to the magic that there is something going on in the universe that we cannot yet explain.”
A Dog’s Purpose screens in major cinemas from today.
I HAVE BECOME MORE AND MORE CAUGHT UP IN THE IDEA OF REINCARNATION
A Dog’s Purpose follows Bailey as he is reincarnated into the bodies of many different dogs.