Another Fun Little Film Find: Darling Companion

You don't have to be a pet owner or dog lover to appreciate Darling Companion, but it would probably help. The film, by director Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, Grand Canyon, Wyatt Earp, French Kiss) stars Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline as a couple with a newly empty nest who may not have much common ground left to stand upon.

The dog is at the center of the story, and although the animal spends much of the movie offscreen, he has an enormous impact on everyone he comes across. Beth (Keaton) and her daughter Grace (Elisabeth Moss) rescue a stray dog from the side of the road. They take him to a local vet, Dr. Sam (Jay Ali), who confirms that the pooch is OK. Sam takes an immediate shine to Grace, but also warns them that the dog's prospects for being adopted are slim. They take the dog home with them for the night, and Beth's husband Joseph (Kline) insists that the dog's stay there is just temporary. But Beth has already named the dog Freeway — it is clear that Freeway is a keeper.

Woman's best friend

 

Joseph is a busy surgeon and Beth clearly is able to pour a lot of her love and loneliness into her new pet.  A year later finds the couple hosting Grace and Sam's wedding at their Denver vacation home, with Freeway so comfortably ensconced in the family that he is an important part of the ceremony. After most of the guests and the newlyweds have left, Joseph takes Freeway for a walk in the surrounding woods. Absorbed with a work-related call on his cell phone, when he looks up Freeway has taken off on the trail. After some half-hearted searching, he heads back home without him.

The rest of the film is concerned with Beth's reaction to Freeway being missing, her relationship with Joseph, and how everyone responds to Beth's cry for help to find her dog. Joseph's sister Penny (Dianne Wiest), her boyfriend Russell (Richard Jenkins), and her son and Joseph's colleague Bryan (Mark Duplass), are still on hand to help in the search, as is Beth and Joseph's beautiful and mysterious housekeeper Carmen (Ayelet Zurer), who claims to have Gypsy blood and "the sight." Adding a bit of humor to the proceedings is Sam Shepard as the local sheriff.

Beth and Joseph, armed with special whistles, search the woods for Freeway


Darling Companion is a very gentle comedy with a leisurely pace. Viewers used to CGI and thrillers might find it a bit flat. But I really liked the subtle interactions between the characters and the underlying truth — that the love a human has for his or her pet is unconditional. But humans and other humans? Not always. It's something to strive for, certainly. It was nice to see such high-calibre actors bouncing off one another. Not a typical Hollywood film, for sure. But worth a look on cable or demand, if you get a chance.

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