Three dogs play Quill over his lifetime. At first his eventual owner Mitsuru Watanabe resists accepting a guide dog as an aid and partner. For his own safety—after he’s almost hit by a truck that Quill stops for—Watanabe acquiesces. Throughout the film, Quill remains front and center with his owner’s family an important backdrop and with observations provided in voiceover narration by Quill’s first “puppy walker” and later by Mr. Watanabe’s daughter.
Based on Ryohei Akimoto and Kengo Ishiguro’s novel The Life of Quill, the Seeing Eye Dog, the film version wisely resists sentimentality. Even so, it’s difficult to imagine a dry eye in the house when the diabetic Watanabe has medical problems with Quill lying by his bed and as Quill himself ages and develops his own problems.
Though Korean-Japanese director Yôichi Sai does not set out to document more than essentials of this one seeing-eye dog, more information on the selection, training, and matching of dogs with their owners would have been welcome. For example, Quill is the pup picked from his litter because he alone does not come immediately when called. That’s fascinating, but a small part of the ideal personality. Similarly, the brief historical comments made me want much more. Quill’s trainer notes that people used guide dogs a long, long time ago. In fact, researchers found a drawing in Pompeii of a man guided by a dog. The agenda in Quill is more narrowly defined, so that’s a minor reservation as Quill takes the viewer inside the world of a blind man who bonds with his seeing-eye companion in profoundly moving ways.
In Japanese with English subtitles, except for the one word commands to Quill that are in English because, as explained, Japanese would be confusing with so many speaking the language. The St. Louis premiere of Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog will be at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 22nd through Monday, June 25th. For more information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or go to the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.