Movie Review: Life with Dog

John FarrellBy John Farrell5 Minutes

Grief can take us down many a dark path … and unfortunately it can come in many shapes and sizes.

But peace and acceptance can also come in many shapes and sizes. Even as a dog.

Losing a spouse is arguably one of the hardest things a person can go through. It’s during these times when we have to have faith that God will get us through the dark times that lie ahead.

But what if you don’t have faith to begin with? That’s when a canine like Dog comes in handy.

In the film, Life with Dog, Joe Bigler unexpectedly loses his wife, Alice (Marilu Henner), when she dies in a bike accident. It is fair to say that Joe, played emphatically by Corbin Bernsen of ‘L.A. Law’ and Major League fame, doesn’t know how to handle his pain or grief. And, in a sense, that is understandable.

He lashes out at everyone and everything around him, including his own daughter Zoey (Chelsey Crisp). Without an ounce of evidence, he even blames the construction workers across the street for his wife’s death. However, the most vilified target of Joe’s ire is God.

Joe even demands that God’s name not be mentioned during Alice’s funeral service despite her being a devout Christian.

Joe: You did exactly what I asked you not to.

Zoey: What?

Joe: Seventeen times.

Zoey: What are you talking about?

Joe: He mentioned “God” by name 17 times in a 30-minute service. You throw in every “Jesus this,” “Jesus that,” that’s well over 30. That’s one mention a minute.

Zoey: You actually counted?

Joe: I asked for one thing Zoey. One thing only. Please do not turn her service into a religious thing.

Zoey: She was a Christian.

Joe: She’s dead. She’s gone. That day was for me.

A little later in the movie, Joe explains to Zoey and Pastor Frank, who arrived at Joe’s house with Zoey upon hearing that he was not satisfied with the service, why he didn’t want God’s name mentioned at the service—because God had failed him.

Joe had turned to God twice in his life and he didn’t get the results he was seeking either time. The first time was the day before Zoey and her twin brother Mike’s 13th birthday.

“I see Alice and I see a fear in her eyes like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I figured I guess I should pick up the slack,” Joe recounts to Zoey and Frank about seeing Alice sitting next to Mike’s hospital bed. “I should say a prayer that she can’t seem to manage just then. So I beg Him. I beg God. Please don’t take my son. I begged. I prayed and I waited. I waited. I begged for mercy. I begged for compassion. We all know how that turned out.”

The second time Joe felt abandoned by God was when Alice was laying in the same hospital after the bicycle accident. Once again, he begged God for mercy. Only this time he dropped to his knees. A little more than a minute later Alice passed away.

“I get his answer. ‘Sorry Joe. Too little, too late,’” Joe asserted. “Twice I tried. Twice I was denied.”

Pastor Frank simply replies, “That’s not God. Those words.”

Shortly before this scene, a dog arrives to seemingly rescue Joe from his own self and grief. The dog isn’t wearing a collar. Unsure of where to find the dog’s owner or what to call him, Joe names him “Dog.”

Despite his attempts to shoo him away, Dog, sensing Joe’s pain, silently refuses to leave Joe’s side and becomes a sounding board for Joe as he tries to make sense of his pain and grief. The two eventually form an unlikely bond. Although you don’t see it at first, Dog’s arrival helps rescue Joe from his darkness and assists him in finding the truth behind Alice’s death.

With twists and turns around almost every corner, Life with Dog is a powerful film that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats rooting for the truth to be revealed and Joe’s faith to be restored.