Angel Dog

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Angel Dog Movie Poster Image
Heartfelt dog drama about grief has grown-up emotion.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 86 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

In spite of devastating loss, grief, and depression featured in the film, it offers a strong message of redemption through friendship and caring for others, and stresses the importance of moving on, and the possibility for beginning anew in the face of tragedy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jake is a loving father and husband. Caroline is a caring doctor and loving daughter who shows extraordinary concern for the animals she treats. Multiple minor characters show kindness, decency, and compassion toward strangers throughout the film.

Violence

There is an initial scene of devastating loss, and sustained grieving shown throughout the film. In one major scene, a car is shown flipped over down an embankment, signaling the death of its passengers, though there is no blood or gore, or even a shot of the bodies. In a brief scene, the body of a woman is shown being pulled out of storage in the morgue to be identified. A man is notified of the death of his wife and children and sobs. A woman is notified of the her mother's death and is shown grieving in additional scenes. A couple recount the tale of the devastating loss of their grandson.

 

 

Sex

Minor innuendo and flirting -- in one scene, coworkers discuss a man's "attractiveness." In multiple scenes, coworkers root for two characters to get together. There is frequent discussion of one character's inability to lock down a boyfriend.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A woman (who is a recovering alcoholic) asks repeatedly for alcohol in a few scenes. In another scene, two adults drink wine with dinner.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Angel Dog is an ultimately uplifting, but extremely grief-laden film about loss and the grieving process that involves the death of a mother and her children, the death of another mother, a discussion of a grandson's death, and the loss of a pet. Though its ultimate message is a positive one about moving on, it explores this theme through grown-up emotions and compounded loss that could easily overwhelm a kid.

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What's the story?

Jake Bryant (Jon Michael Davis) loses his family in a tragic car accident where only the family dog survives. But border collie Cooper has a preternatural ability to help grief sufferers move on, and with the dog's help, and the shoulder of a sympathetic vet (Farah White), Jake learns to move past his devastating loss.

Is it any good?

Angel Dog is a sweet, heartfelt film about loss that reinforces the value and importance of moving on, and suggests that people (and pets) may all enter our lives for a reason. It offers important positive messages about kindness, compassion, and creating the space for a person to grieve in a healthy, unrushed way. This is contrasted by showing what it's like when people don't move on, and are stuck in a lifetime of pain and unable to let go.

That said, it's a heavy dose of real-world suffering: Most scenes for the majority of the film are devoted to the exploration of the pain of loss, whether they feature a grieving character, a somber wash of bluish tint, or a maudlin score. The bright spots come with dog Cooper's ability to cut through that suffering, and offer a modicum of comfort on the path to moving on. Still, the film could use a guide dog of its own in moving on from its subject -- we don't get much sunlight at this vigil until the last 10 minutes. Kids may enjoy the interactions of the characters with a highly intelligent and sensitive animal, especially those interested in comfort dogs, but parents will want to make a call about whether this much sustained grief over the course of an hour and half is worth the ultimately uplifting message.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about loss. Have you lost someone important to you? What helped you feel better as you processed your grief?

  • Different cultures around the world process grieving in dramatically different ways. Go online with parents to watch a funeral procession in New Orleans. 

  • Pets are a big help in this film to help those who are suffering. Have you ever seen a guide dog or a comfort dog? Visit the library to read more about the ways pets help people cope with loss or tragedy.

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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