A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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.
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