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film review

In Buddy, Heddy Honigmann explores the close bond between animal and human.Courtesy of Hot Docs / GAT

  • Buddy
  • Written and directed by Heddy Honigmann
  • Classification N/A
  • 86 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

In the first few minutes of this service-dog documentary, you might wonder why your heartstrings aren’t constantly being pulled, why you’re not immediately weeping, as the film depicts six portraits of humans with special needs and the dogs who brighten their lives. Going in, you might expect sweeping character development first, to learn about the owner’s disabilities – the reasons they need a dog to survive, a la an episode of Netflix’s hit series Dogs – before you meet the hero pooch, come to save the day.

Instead, the Dutch documentary is intentionally unsentimental. Even if some scenes are too drawn out, it’s the small blink-and-you’d-miss-it moments that grab the heart and offer the reward: the knowing glance between a PTSD-suffering soldier and his wife, who admit bluntly that their dog saved their marriage. Or the “make yourself comfortable” a blind man mumbles to his guide dog as she folds into his lap.

In resisting the urge to roll over into the sappy-dog genre, Buddy instead elevates the stories it tells: It’s ultimately about love, resilience and lessons we can all take in.

Buddy opens June 21 at the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto