Monday 23 December 2013

Another Chance (2012)

Director: Barbara Gross
Stars: Mare Nubson and Sharon Newman
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.
It would be a difficult thing not to choke up at this little tearjerker, but then that's much of the point, as it's very much a film with a message. It even starts out with a woman crying, as she parks her SUV over two handicapped spots to let her dog out. We don't see where, but in the morning we discover that it's a Humane Society animal shelter. This lady has apparently tied her dog to a pillar for Susan to discover in the morning as she shows up for work. Out the window goes any sympathy we might have found for the crying SUV driver, to quickly attach itself to the dog, an old girl that Susan decides to call Chance. The pair bond, in part because, as Susan says, 'nobody wants an old dog, just like nobody wants an old broad like me.' I was expecting the story to continue with the parallels, but it doesn't; it has a one track mind and that's focused on its message, which is that old dogs rarely get adopted, which in turn means that in many shelters they're put to sleep, an unfortunate euphemism in this scenario. They're killed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this story about a shelter that kills its old unadopted dogs after six months was shot at a no-kill shelter, the Humane Society in Wickenberg. After all, no shelter with a kill policy is likely to let a filmmaker like Barbara Gross wander in with a camera to shoot a short message film that aims to highlight to as wide an audience as possible how much this sort of behaviour goes on. It ends with a page of statistics to highlight how many animals enter US shelters every year and how many are killed. It's no spoiler to point out that it's most of them, even discounting age. When it comes to older animals, it's almost all of them. 'Give an old dog or cat another chance,' it pleads before the end credits roll, with the backing of strings to make it all the more plaintive. 'Adopt a senior.' I couldn't agree more, which is why it's sad that I find the film annoying. It didn't have to play things up as much as it did. Those strings weren't needed. Susan's boss didn't have to be such a bitch. The message stands up on its own.

Technically, it's capable but never high art. The picture quality isn't great at points and there's footage here that should have been chopped to make a leaner, tighter picture. Who cares if Susan eats peanut butter on her toast? We need to get her to work so we can move on with the story. Chance appears to be a lovely dog, who doesn't get enough screen time. Fortunately Mare Nubson does as Susan, as her performance is the foundation on which the entire film is built. I have no idea if she's really a dog lover off set but we can totally buy that she is, that all those dogs she cares for are really hers because she does a great job. The problem is that it relies on her too much and, instead of creating a subtle story to draw us in, it tries to jerk our tears any way it can, even if it hurts the consistency of the story, and it cheapens itself in the process. It's odd to find myself arguing with a film whose message I agree with, but that's what I found. I hope it finds a large audience but that it doesn't annoy them too.

Another Chance can be viewed for free at YouTube and Vimeo.

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