Don’t have to love dogs
But it helps in relating to family at heart of this comedy
If you have to stop and think about the answer to the question “Whom do you like better, your spouse or the dog? — and don’t act like the thought hasn’t occurred to you more than once — Darling Companion will have no trouble wagging its way into your heart.
A gentle, winning comedy about a Denver couple, Beth and Joseph (Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline), who have drifted apart, the movie takes a simple if shattering occurrence and uses it as a way to bring a family together.
The event in question involves a runaway dog named Freeway, a mutt Beth and her daughter Grace (Elisabeth Moss) rescue from the side of the road. Joseph, a busy, distracted surgeon, objects to the idea of a pet, but there’s never any real question that Beth, lonely because both her girls are grown and living their own lives, is not about to dump the dog at the pound.
Sofreewayisabsorbedintothehousehold as a treasured member of the family. Then, a year later at Beth’s wedding at the family’s gorgeous Rocky Mountain vacation home, Joseph takes the dog out without a leash, and while he’s talking on his cellphone Freeway runs off after a deer and doesn’t return.
Therestof Darlingcompanion focuses on the search for Freeway, undertaken by a distraught Beth and guilty Joseph; his free-spirit sister Penny (Dianne Wiest); her jovial new boyfriend Russell (Richard Jenkins); Penny’s grown son Bryan (Mark Duplass), who finds himself drawn to the vacation home’s caretaker Carmen (Ayelet Zurer).
Carmen takes the search up a notch by claiming her Gypsy ancestry allows her accesstovisionsthatfreewayisnotdead. This assertion sounds ridiculous until you realize that whether Carmen is actually clairvoyant is beside the point: Her goal is to bolster hope because as long as there’s hope, Freeway remains alive.
This slight plot is an excuse to allow the variouscharacterstowarmuptoormake amendswitheachother.practicaldoctor Bryan finds himself trusting the unorthodox Carmen; he and Russell have an adventure that bonds them in the way only comically terrifying experiences can. And of course the real relationship in need of repair is Beth and Joseph’s; theyhavetomovepastangerandfrustration as the search drags on to some sort of understanding and acceptance about what the rest of their lives will be like.
Darling Companion’s light tone should reassure animal lovers there’s no horrific Marley & Me scenario looming at the film’s end, but the anguish of a pet owner in distress is just right. When Joseph tells Beth that he feels bad but “we haven’t lost a person; we’ve lost a dog,” her reply cuts right to the bone: “Love is love. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog.” You don’t have to love dogs to enjoy
Darling Companion, but it couldn’t