Hachi: A Dog’s Tale

Hachi: A Dog's Tale starring Richard Gere Some films released to theatres find their audience immediately and become great success stories.  Some, however find their audience on DVD. One such film is Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, starring Richard Gere. It was never released commercially in the U.S. (although it did play at the Seattle International Film Festival). I became curious about it when one of our customers ordered multiple copies of it to give to friends. Now I understand why. First of all, you have to be an animal lover to “get” the film, or forget it (One of my jaded and non-animal owner co-workers snickered when I told him some details of the film). And if you’re a dog lover, even better.

Hachi: A Dog's Tale starring Richard Gere

Hachi and Richard Gere

The story is very simple. A college professor named Parker Wilson (Gere) finds a lost Akita puppy at a train station one evening and takes him home after the station master (Jason Alexander) refuses to keep him. His wife Cate (a stern and humorless Joan Allen) is not on board with keeping the dog. His daughter (Sarah Roemer, currently of NBC’s The Event) is. They put up flyers in their little town looking for the pup’s owner, but when Allen sees the bond between her husband and the puppy, she relents and allows her husband to keep him. Parker names him “Hachi” after a Japanese colleague translates the number “ 8” symbol on the dog’s collar meaning good fortune. One day when Parker is leaving to take the train to work, Hachi escapes from their yard and follows his owner there.  This eventually becomes a routine with Hachi accompanying Parker everyday to the train station to see his master off and then returning in the evening to greet him and walk him home. Hachi becomes known in the town by the train passengers, shopkeepers, and especially by the nearby food vendor Jasjeet (Erik Avari) and bookstore owner Mary Ann (Davenia McFadden).

One day Parker does not return home on the train, and Hachi waits and waits for him until Parker’s son-in-law comes to retrieve the dog. Parker (SPOILER ALERT!!!) has suffered cardiac arrest at work and died. The next day, Hachi goes to the train station to wait again. After the funeral Parker’s wife Cate sells their house,  moves away and sends Hachi off to live with her daughter and her husband and her young son. (Allen’s role as the wife is not defined enough to understand her motivations. She just comes off cold.)  Hachi is not content there, though. He escapes from them to go to the train station to once again wait for his master. Eventually Hachi just stays at the train station, surviving on food given to him by commuters while keeping his vigil for Parker. This goes on for years and catches the attention of a newspaper reporter who publicizes Hachi’s  loyalty.  Parker’s wife returns 10 years later and is amazed to see the now aged Hachi still at his spot at the train station. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is based on a true story. The original took place in Japan in 1924 at Shibuya Station, where a statue of the real dog Hachiki stands and continues to be a meeting place for commuters.

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The film is unabashedly sentimental and family friendly (G-rated) and is ably directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gibert Grape, Dear John and, most appropriately, My Life  as a Dog), who employs the device of sometimes seeing things from Hachi’s perspective. (These scenes are in black and white, as dogs supposedly do not see color)  I am purposely leaving out some details of the film, as to not spoil it for those who have not seen it and hopefully will. This poignant story of faithfulness and loyalty is akin to other animal films like Born Free, Greyfriar’s Bobby, The Yearling and Old Yeller.  And like them, you will need a tissue box close by.

  • mike jaral

    I watched the movie, but I will never watch it again. being it a true story even upset me more. I don’t recall of a movie in many a year to do this to me. I am not that sentimental, but i do have a dog who acts exactly the same way. my wife tells me he waits at exactly the same time each day for me until I get home, in exactly the same place in the house, and watches the front door, and does not take his eyes off of the door. I can’t take watching this movie. most storys like lassie movies end in a pleasant way, but this movie was just plain heartbreaking. It stayed with me for many a day, and when I think about it, it still upsets me. the two movies about smokey ended in a very touching but good. if you love dogs I do, it might not be such a good Idea to watch this movie.

  • Chuck Martins

    This is a great movie that should have been released in the US instead of direct to DVD. Gere does a great job as the professor who is adopted by the dog. All the human actors are great, but Hachi is the star. There is no doubt of that. The film was filmed im my home state of Rhode Island and I am familiar with the locations around the station. Hallstrom has taken a depressed mill city and created an image that lends a fairy tale look to part of the movie.The movie has a sad but positive ending.

  • roy levering

    I agree. A sad ending to a good film.

  • Ralph

    This is a great movie. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it. One has to realize that dogs have feelings and do express them. They are also true to their owners and cannot cope with being ignored. They are actually more faithful to their owners than they are other dogs. The moment the dog comes on the screen I become very emotional. Their simple requirements of love and enough to eat and being warm at night are all they require.

  • Paul D. McCauley

    I beleave if the movie is anything like ( OLD YELLER ), it should be a real good movie.
    Paul D.

  • joan m. slotnick

    Recently saw this movie on a cable station and it was a beautiful and very sad movie. To have a dog that was just waiting for the master he loved to come home after the master had passed was just heart wrenching. They finally did get together in the afterlife. I enjoyed the movie, but I do not think it would have done well if released into theatres. It is definitely tv fare.

  • Ken A

    With Richard Gere and Joan Allen as leads, that this film never saw the inside of a theater is something of a shocker. Thanks be for Netflix putting this in my suggestion list. I sat on the sofa with my 17-year-old hound, watched this film, and cried my eyes out. Lasse Hallstrom seems to have a special knack for presenting touching, poignant, character-driven stories which stay with you long after the film has ended. A great job here; but, like mike, I’m not sure that I could ever watch it again…glad to have seen it at least once though.

  • Marla Opper

    This was quite possibly the biggest surprise I have seen on TV in quite awhile. I sat with my dog, Gwen, and we loved this movie together. I also loved my dog even more when it was over (when I finished crying).

  • John Staggs

    I loved this film … It was great .

  • Dwight Cumming

    I caught this movie by accident while surfing cable channels. Intrigued because it didn’t appear to be a Richard Gere “type” movie, I stayed with it long enough to get totally wiped out emotionally. I agree with Mike that it was so heartbreaking, it has stayed with me for months. A true indictment of the physical frailty.

  • kent gravett

    If you like this you should see the original film from Japan. It remains the highest grossing film in their history and is a masterpiece. I think the title is Hachi,Ko (But not sure). The storyline is exact to the Gere film. Unfortunately, it has never come out on video. Why I do not know. A video merchant in Little Tokyo in LA said if it is ever released she could sell 100 copies a week with no sweat. One should pursue getting it released. Also, the statue at that train station does exist although the original bronze was melted down in WWII for the war effort. Worth seeing.

  • JUanita Curtis

    Will definitely look out for this movie as I am big fan of Richard Gere. Can’t believe it was not released theatrically.

  • Roland

    Is it on DVD and may it be bought from any store?

  • John Tartaglia
  • Kae Upton

    My daughter brought it home the first day it came out on sale. We sat together with our miniture dashund between us and a box of kleenix. By the end of the movie, Peanut was being fought over for hugs and kisses and the box of kleenix gone. This is a movie for the whole family to sit down and watch. Yes its sad, but the story itself is about love and loyalty between family and to anyone who has a pet, you know that they too are a part of the family.

  • Cindi Wolfe

    As a lover of dogs, this movie REALLY got to me, mainly b/c it was based on a true story. One of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Please don’t miss this jewel!

  • Patricia Ritter

    This movie brought back memories of my Wolfe (Golden Retriever), he never left my side and was always at the door when I would come home….I had him for 14 years, those years were filled with pure love just like Hachi had for the professor……It’s a fantastic story and a tear jerker, and like the rest of you I don’t think I could watch it again….Once seen you just don’t forget it.

  • Anne Lou

    Can’t wait to order my copy as I am a Richard Gere fan and dog lover. From what people have said, it sounds a lot like the book I just finished reading called “Cold Train Coming”.

  • Latisha Hutchkins-Ambersole

    Appreciate your article. I almost cried, not for Hachi’s heart-breaking loyalty day after day, year after year, but because he never got the chance to “say good-bye” in his very own proud doggy way.
    One question I have is who is “Luke”? He was mentioned in couple of vague morbid references soon after the professor brought Hachi home to his wife. Was he their son or their old dog who had died long before Hachi arrived?

  • Michael Sultana

    Luke was a dog the Wilson’s had who passed away. That is why Cate says “No more dogs” … Parker had saved several of Luke’s toys and gave them to Hachi …. one of them being the yellow ball.

    I think Sony made a big mistake in not giving Hachi a theatrical release here in the US. It was released to theaters all over the world.

    When Hachi, as an old dog, falls asleep in the snow, waiting, never to awaken again in this life, we feel comforted in the knowledge that he and his beloved master are finally reunited. There is Parker once again coming through those train station doors – this time not coming home but coming to bring Hachi home to be with him forever.

  • Patty Jo

    This was an excellent gift the best Christmas gift I got along with my ipod. It really hit home as my dad died this year and our dog just kept waiting at the door for him to come back. It’s just a wonderful story.

  • chayne

    The best movie that really moved me and will always stay with me. It just proves dogs are mans BEST FRIENDS, to bad more people couldn’t be loyal to each other, everyone should see this movie once it’s a life lesson!

  • chayne

    Best movie I’ve seen in a long time! Everyone should see it once. It has a good live lesson, people should be loyal to each other like hachi. Proves once again dogs are mans BEST FRIENDS.

  • chayne max

    Best movie that moved me in a long time, proves once more dogs are mans best friends! People should be more loyal to each other like hachi, the world would be the better for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003197974942 Emily Rangel

    this move is sow tuching it made me and my brother cry ,hachi is a playfull puppy and turns in a cute dog youst couse is not by hes freind side dose not mean he is not a perrfeqt dog ,the sad part is when the man dids and hachi dids allsow , he is sad cause hes freind dids and moves to another hause ,he is no ordenade dog he is a nise puppy or dog he is a freind to everybody.

  • Denise Dick

    Hachi: A Dog”s Tale, Where The Red Fern Grows, and Greyfriers Bobby are the saddest movies ever.  I am an animal lover and they all broke my heart.  I loved the movies and have watched them all several times but always with crying, Denise Dick 

  • Elani patzan

    This is a very sad movie it litterly brought tears to my eyes during this movie people should rescue pets and be loyal to them this is an extraordinary movie watch it and you’ll see why it brings tear to my eyes now yours a dogs a man’s best friend.·_· So sad must watch every one now not tomorrow or one year now because you’ll feel the pain that I feel that will haunt my soul for life when mentions HACHIKI I’M STILL CRYING Still UNTIL THE DAY I DIE.