Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog



Charming subtitled drama shows healing power of dogs.
  • Review Date: July 13, 2012
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Devotion to duty is paramount for a guide dog, but it's just as important for Quill's blind master to follow the procedures for getting around with a canine partner. They function best as a team and are less efficient when one decides to do things things his own way.

Positive role models

Quill is a selfless guide dog -- dedicated, devoted, and a delight to watch. His master is gruff but eventually shows a softer side.


A grumpy old man frequently snaps at the people around him.

Not applicable

Characters sometimes discuss when and where a dog will "poop" and "pee" in Japanese with subtitles.


Some Japanese brands are visible onscreen, including Suntory beer and All Nippon Airways.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A man visits a beer vending machine for a drink.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog is a Japanese movie that will appeal to all ages, as long as reading subtitles isn't a problem. Though the film follows the format of a documentary, it's a scripted drama about a grumpy older man and his selfless guide dog learning to work together. There's no swearing or smoking, and only a few scenes where adults relax with beer. Also, the puppies are unbearably cute.

What's the story?

Quill, a dedicated Labrador, is the one puppy in his litter who doesn't immediately come when he's called, a potential sign of introspection and patience that may mean he's got the right stuff to be a guide dog for the blind. Soon he's sent to a school where he's trained to lead a sightless person; later, he's assigned to Watanabe, a surly journalist who's more than a handful for the people around him. Eventually, dog and master become a tightly bonded unit, changing both of them for the better.

Is it any good?


QUILL: THE LIFE OF A GUIDE DOG appears to be a documentary, so carefully does it document the entire dog-training process. But this Japanese film is actually a charming drama about the relationship between a canine and his master and how their interaction can transform them both. It could have all been played for kitsch, but thankfully, there are no human voiceovers explaining Quill's inner thoughts, nor are there any cutesy techniques to personify him.

Instead, Quill allows the dog to do what dogs do: He sits when he's told to sit and waits when he's told to wait, and, most importantly, he carefully leads Watanabe safely through town And you still gets to know the main characters, especially the canine headliner. Such a gem he is! He cares about his master more than anything else in the world. This is a film that shows what it takes to connect with another being, and it's told in such an elegantly simple way.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between Quill and his master. How does it differ from a standard pet-owner relationship? What qualities make Quill a good guide dog?

  • How is Quill different from other movies that focus on animals? Did you get a sense of what Quill is thinking and feeling even though there's no voiceover or other device that serves as the dog's inner dialogue?

  • How does the blind Watanabe cope with his disability? How does the film portray his life? Does the film contradict any stereotypes about people with disabilities?

Movie details

DVD release date:July 10, 2012
Cast:Kaoru Kobayashi, Kippei Shiina
Director:Yoichi Sai
Studio:Music Box Films
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Cats, dogs, and mice, Friendship
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 8 years old November 8, 2015

Sad but cute.

I's very cute and happy in the beginning, but towards the end, Quill's owner dies. It also shows Quill dying, so I don't recomend it for children under 10. Quill: the Life of a Guide Dog is a very sad movie.
Educator and Parent Written byjhannibal June 25, 2013

(spoiler alert: death happens)

Great film, well done with cute puppy moments and teachable moments about dogs. Spoiler alert: both the dog and his blind owner die in the end. We didn't see that coming, and it caught us emotionally off-guard. I'd have prepped my kids with that fact if I'd have known in advance. Otherwise, totally great film. The subtitles were fairly easy for a eight or nine year old to read, despite the words detracting a little from the kid focusing on the images on-screen.


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