A few weeks ago I read My Dog Tulip, J.R. Ackerley’s memoir about his high-strung Alsatian, in anticipation of the release of the animated film by the same name. Because the film has a limited release I wasn’t sure if I’d get to see the movie in the theater or have to wait for NetFix. Luckily it’s playing in Philadelphia this week only so I scooted into the city on Saturday.
The animation, done by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, a husband-and-wife team, was wonderfully fluid and full of vitality (much like Tulip). Unlike a lot of current animation, the drawings aren’t smooth and and polished but deliberately left rough and sketchy. (The film was drawn entirely by hand, but on a computer, a Wacom tablet.) Tulip comes to life on the screen, jumping and barking and pooping. In short, being a dog. Paul Fierling says, “We wanted to make a film about real dogs and real dog behavior.” That they did.
Having so recently read the book, the story—about Tulip’s 15 years with Ackerley—was fresh in my mind. The film has the memoir’s same episodic spirit, telling not so much a linear story as relating major events as man and dog quickly become inseparable. We see Ackerley (voiced by Christopher Plummer) battle with cold-hearted vets until he finds the right one (Isabella Roselini). He tussles with his sister Nancy (Lynn Redgrave) over who will win Tulip’s heart (guess who wins), and he attempts to mate Tulip with other Alsatians—to no avail. (Tulip does bear a litter of eight pups but the father is a dog of no pedigree). And, yes, you get to see the dogs mate, if that’s your thing. Tulip lives an amazingly long life for such a large breed (16 1/2 years) and her death is treated in a matter-of-fact way.
The point of the book and the movie is that dogs can give you what no one else can: Complete, all-encompassing love and devotion. (That’s if you don’t own a pug. Pugs expect your love and devotion. And they get it! ) I highly recommend this movie. Go see it!