My Dog Tulip

My Dog Tulip

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Axiom Films 

Release date: 6th May 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 83 min

Year of production: 2009

Director: Paul Fierlinger, Sandra Fierlinger

Writer: Paul Fierlinger (screenplay), based on the novel by JR Ackerley

Cast: Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave, Isabella Rossellini

I get extremely enthusiastic about dogs. Whether they’re in real life, movies, books, or comics, dogs rule. Since my own personal dogs have now died, all of my affection for Jimmy and Jess has been transferred onto other people’s dogs; dogs are awesome, including animated ones. Even before sitting down, I knew that My Dog Tulip would speak to me in a very personal way, and purposefully wore no mascara for the inevitable ending.

Based on the quasi-autobiography by JR Ackerley, also titled My Dog Tulip, this animated film explores the relationship between Joe and Tulip, his newly acquired German Shepherd bitch.

My Dog Tulip

Unable to find an ‘Ideal Friend’, codeword for boyfriend, Joe Ackerley takes in Tulip, and she provides him with the companionship that has thus far eluded him in his personal life. For fifteen years, Tulip is the primary companion in Joe’s life, and becomes the centre of it.

Tulip barks a lot, she’s boisterous, and alive in a way that Joe is not. She introduces him to a new kind of humanity in a way that other actual humans have not been able to. She “is in love with” him, providing him with the constance and affection that Joe has been lacking, making her the Ideal Friend that he has been so desirous of.

Tulip, as a dog, is free from the social norms that binds Joe, and through her finds some kind of freedom within himself.

The story is touching and very sweet as Joe tries to give Tulip a ‘full life’, codeword for mating, trying to provide for her in a way that he hasn’t been able to with anyone else, because he hasn’t been needed, or wanted, in such a way before. No one has been perfect like the dog has been perfect, she is his ‘ideal friend’ even though he isn’t sexually intimate with her; he has left his unfulfilling promiscuous days behind and has found something much more meaningful.

My Dog Tulip

My one gripe would be that the film is very concerned with Tulip’s bodily functions, a little too much so at the detriment to the very real relationship between Tulip and Joe. I care less about bowel movements and vomit, and more about adorable, touching inter-species friendships.

The supporting cast were diverse and enriched the story in touching and humorous ways. From minor sexy detours in the park with a stranger to manually stimulate a dog, to the husband and wife relationship of Tulip’s would-be partner’s owners, the tenuous links between the world show how owning a dog can open these social doors and can bring people together. The incident at the grocery store aside, of course…

Nancy was a great character, probably my favourite in the whole film, extremely well acted by Lynn Redgrave in what was to be her last role. More than just a convenient prop or plot device, her calls of ‘Jooooo-ooooe!’ are both funny and warming. Her unspoken battle with Joe over Tulip says more about the siblings than they’d ever admitted to themselves.

My Dog Tulip

I also really enjoyed the style of animation, I thought it was cute and quirky and really enhanced, rather than merely illustrating, the story. Particular favourites were the hand drawn interludes to the story, on fake lined paper in a stylish slapdash, almost childish manner.

The last scene in particular was really well done and captured entirely what Ackerley was trying to say.

My Dog Tulip may be a bit impenetrable if you don’t own a dog; you might not really get certain aspects of the film, especially if you hate dogs and just can’t see what all the fuss is about. But for those who do, and are interested in the psychology behind relationships, this is delightful.

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