QUILL (Yoichi Sai). 100 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (June 3) at Canada Square. For times, see page 181. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Hard to believe that the country that gave us Tokyo Decadence, Yukio Mishima and Guitar Wolf could also produce this sentimental little turd of a film about a seeing-eye dog. Welcome to Hello Kitty without the irony.
The titular Quill is a Labrador retriever born with a defining mark on his side that resembles a bird. In a way, he's the ultimate underdog. Not very expressive or impulsive, he's literally left in the dust by other tail-wagging canines at his dog-training school. Turns out that these very qualities are needed for the methodical, orderly life of dogs chosen to lead the visually impaired.
Soon he's matched with a stubborn, angry blind man who yells at his kids, berates his wife and doesn't want a dog.
You know where this is going, don't you?
The high squirm factor would be lessened if there were more psychological or narrative complexity. But the "characters" and lessons (the film is based on a real story) are obvious from the outset. Dog remains loyal, mean man becomes nice.
For some reason, the film's narrator is the mean man's daughter, who, along with the distant mother, seems to play no part in the family at all. Maybe buried in this glorified kids' movie is a an unintentional comment on misogyny in modern Japan.
The worst moment, for me anyway, is a particularly icky sentimental scene underscored by kitschy made-up lyrics to the intermezzo from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. This film should be put down.