Life With Dog is the story of Joe Bigler who lost his wife Alice in a mysterious bike accident. It is mysterious, because the accident was a hit-and-run. Left a widower with no answers as to how the accident happened and the person responsible, Joe falls into a deep depression. That state is only magnified by developers who want to purchase his home and move him out, so they can build commercial property.
Joe, played by Corbin Bernsen (who also directs the film) is grieving the loss of his wife, who is played by Marilu Henner. Most may not be familiar with Bernsen or Henner, but I remember Bernsen from L.A. Law and Henner from Taxi, which were both successful television series during the 1980s. Both are known for other performances over the years and I enjoyed seeing them in the movie.
The opening scene in Life With Dog is the aftermath of an accident. There is an abandoned bicycle on the ground and paramedics hurriedly caring for the victim. You know something is wrong, but you do not know someone has died. There are people standing around looking at the scene and there is also a dog. It is not until a few minutes later into the movie you realize someone, Alice, has died.
Grief is an emotion that each person experiences differently. We do not handle it the same as another person no matter our relationship to the deceased. Joe has lost his wife and Zoey, their daughter, has lost her mother. Joe, living without faith, goes into depression and becomes consumed with finding the person responsible for Alice’s death. Zoey, leaning on her faith, tries to help her father find the strength (and sanity) and understanding he needs to continue living. I think when Norman Olsen comes by the house to talk to Joe about selling his house that the viewer gets good insight into his thinking.
It is not until a dog, the same one we saw earlier at the accident scene, enters Joe’s life that he begins to find some “joy” in his life.
Having experienced a loss of a loved one, I felt a lot of compassion for Joe, who also lost his son when he was younger. I could empathize with his determination to find the one who caused his wife’s death, but also understand how unhealthy that focus was. The depression (not always a sad person walking around looking sad) that follows is typically a result of the grieving process. Although my eyes stayed fixed on God (I never fell that far), I completely understand his refusal to not believe.
As a pet owner, I can see the benefit of having one (or more) in your life. Although they are not human, they can sense everything you feel (ex: happiness, sadness, pain, etc.).
I think Dog is Joe’s saving grace. The two have an interesting relationship. I love the “conversations” they have as well as the ones Joe has with Alice. Both allow the viewer to walk through his grieving process.
When I talk about grief, again, it is not all about sadness. It is processing the death of a loved one. If you have teens or elementary age children, know that although the topics covered are heavy, Life With Dog presents them in a manner where you (parent) feels comfortable. It can also lead to a good discussion about faith, holding strong to faith when tragedy strikes and also learning ways to work through grief.Rather than trying to heal and managing the developers and find a new normal, Joe becomes consumed with finding the person responsible for his wife’s death.
Although, viewers are led to believe Joe finds some peace at the end of the movie, there is no real closure with the movie and I say that without telling you how it ends. There is no real closure or happy ending of Joe walking into the sunset.
If you have teens or elementary age children, know that although the topics covered are heavy, Life With Dog presents them in a manner where you (parent) feels comfortable.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Love of Dog is available June 4.