“My Dog Tulip” takes an animated look at J.R. Ackerley’s cult novel that follows the memoirs of an older, lonely man and the German shepherd who transforms his life inside and out.
“My Dog Tulip” takes an animated look at J.R. Ackerley’s cult novel that follows the memoirs of an older, lonely man and the German shepherd who transforms his life inside and out. Directors Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s masterpiece gives a fresh, blunt and sometimes unbearably guileless look at the relationships between people and pets. The film is as truthful as it is hilarious, awkward and invigorating, and won’t leave you in mawkish disarray as expected from many pet sentimentals.
Ackerley describes his near accidental stumble upon an 18-month-old neglected and disorderly German shepherd, Tulip. As Ackerley integrates Tulip into the ordinary life she never knew existed beyond the fenceposts of her youth, Tulip envelops her newfound owner with a friendship that is beyond human capability. Tulip guards his room at night, barks at passers-by on the street and nudges his nose to see if he’s still alive during his sleep. Ackerley questions whether dogs get headaches over their uncontainable owner-related worries.
Despite the childlike, heartwarming theme, make no mistake in bringing the kids along for this one. Ackerley shows no shame in discussing that which makes a dog a dog. Much of the movie dives into Tulip’s habits of relieving herself on the sidewalk, on dead carcasses of washed-up animals and in the homes of guests. Additionally, half of the film follows Ackerley’s stressful attempts to find Tulip a mate. Despite the sometimes graphic depictions of anal glands, smelly diarrhea and lots of dog lovin’, the movie takes a brave step in revealing that which the veil of civilization and orderly conduct will not allow its citizens to acknowledge. In many ways, dogs are just like us, only they aren’t afraid to show their bodily intentions.
Ultimately, Ackerley suggests that we are different in one other way. We are not ideal companions to one another. As Ackerley explains of Tulip, “She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion.” Anyone who has ever owned a dog will find this movie brilliant and hilarious, as it points out all the unnoted regularities of existence with a pet companion: from pretending not to notice your dog pooping on the side of the road to having your leg humped, precious memories of your beloved friend will be reignited.
Lack of true plot notwithstanding, “My Dog Tulip” is entertainment filled to the brim. Its juxtaposition between the present and sketches illustrating Ackerley’s thought processes, worries and ideas allows viewers to follow the film from multiple viewpoints. And if the story doesn’t keep you watching, the animation will. The quirky, wonderful design of the film is unsurpassed in its own unique sketchy format. The time put into each drawing is truly unquestionable.
This impressionist animation coupled with the subtle turns of a calm plot speaks to the movie’s goal entirely. “My Dog Tulip” delivers something informal and imperfect for audiences to contemplate. Its unpolished design reflects our own flawed, not overly dramatized and sometimes frankly embarrassing life experiences. No matter how hard we try to not make mistakes or shield ourselves from love by polishing our lives, in the end, we too are animals. ?