Quill is among one of the cutest, most lovable movie dogs I have ever seen. He is a Labrador who was raised from the time he was born to be a guide dog for the blind and achieves the goals to become one not over time, but seemingly through his aptitude for patience, kindness, and responsibility. He was one of several pups to be born and then taken to a foster family for one year as they trained him to become a loyal, playful, yet disciplined dog. When the inevitable "parting ways" scene comes between Quill and his foster family of one year, roughly fifteen minutes in, it inspires tears as if it wasn't planned or even hinted at.
That is one of the strongest regards I can sincerely pay to a film targeted at making the audience cry. We know Quill's first family is a temporary one, we know he only has a one year time frame with them, and we know both parties are in for a beneficial experience. To know all that and shed authentic tears at the forthcoming "end of a chapter" shows that the picture utilized its emotional heights properly, with added integrity, and not in a manipulating fashion.
After spending a year with a kind Japanese family, Quill is off to formal training to become a guard-dog, learning key points such as identifying curbs, corners, and objects blocking a blind man's path. He is assigned to Mitsuru Watanabe (Kaoru Kobayashi), a man who is cold to the idea of having a guide dog, feeling it may corrupt the limited independence he still holds on to. He all ready has a stick and feels more comfortable because he's the ones controlling it. Little does he know that Quill has a strong ability to be empathetic with his humans, and he is one of the best dogs a blind man could be fortunate enough to have guiding them.
Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog doesn't examine how touchingly the dog and man connect over time, nor does it illustrate how dogs make something softer than it actually is. Director Yôichi Sai objectively shows the casual processes a guide dog is taken through. Going into this expecting a documentary of sorts, I was taken by how stably this tale amounts to the boundaries of fictitious storytelling. For all I know, this could've been a docudrama, illustrating a true story purely and without cliché traps, as it does.
Being that Quill is a Japanese film centering on the area of Japan (I've been dancing around that fact for fear that it will curb a potential viewer's mind), Quill's trainer (Kippei Shiina) makes it very clear that when giving Quill directions, Mr. Watanabe must state them in English so as not to open the possibility of Quill mistaking pedestrian Japanese or nearby Japanese dialog for commands. It's an interesting little side-note to say the least.
Although not directly stated or marketed to any person, I could see young kids appreciating this story just as much as an adult. The subtitles are basic and can be read by anyone of a fourth grade reading level. Kids will adore the cute little puppy, parents will enjoy the depth and emotional impact (as well as the sensitive direction), and it would be a nice introduction to the unlimited possibilities of getting a dog if a family would be thinking of committing such a step.
Some people have stated that Quill had a bad life as a dog and was gravely mistreated throughout his entire career. I don't believe so; the dog was never abused or neglected. His life was somewhat less loving, maybe, than the typical American dog in a middle class suburban home, but never did I recall an instance where Quill was treated with neglect or abuse. If not loved unconditionally, Quill's actions were at least appreciated by not only Mr. Watanabe, but his foster parents, who Quill spends his later days with.
As stated before, Quill is one of the cutest, most lovable movie dogs I have ever seen and Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog is among the best dog movies I've ever seen. It shows how dogs assist humans in shockingly beneficial ways and does so by creating an emotionally lively and enjoyable picture with familiar characters and beautiful storytelling. I'd say it's a better dog movie than Marley and Me, because of its concern for performances and the fact that there's more than just a cute dog at the center of its story.
Starring: Kippei Shiina and Kaoru Kobayashi. Directed by: Yôichi Sai.