Saturday movie review: Heart of a Dog

I was offered the opportunity to review a film that's far out of my wheelhouse, that buzz word of late regarding one's area of interest or expertise. I may not be an expert, but it's typically independent dramas or black comedies that you'll find me reviewing and writing about here each Saturday.

heart of a dog film

I decided to stretch a bit, though, when offered a screener link for the documentary HEART OF A DOG, artist Laurie Anderson's personal—and mostly self-shot—meditations on her dog, her mother, life after 9/11 and more (that I won't give away).

This isn't a film for everyone. There's no true storyline to the whole thing, just more of a stream of consciousness sort of intermingling of intriguing imagery paired with a soothing voiceover by Anderson.


The compelling graphics and unusual narrative captured my attention immediately. Anderson shares a unique take on life and death and loss throughout. Loss mostly. Loss of her mother, her beloved rat terrier, her friends and the overall loss of innocence after the towers came down.

All the loss of loved ones could be quite depressing, yet HEART OF A DOG didn't depress me. It intrigued me and made me think. And made me consider how I am so very not a thinker of unusual thoughts and ideas, not a questioner of the status quo or where I fit in—or don't fit in—with the world.

Anderson doesn't fit in my world, at least not as far fitting in with my friends and family and my kind-of-boring-yet-comfortable-to-me lifestyle. Which may be why I thoroughly enjoyed her film. She made me think, made my heart stir for reasons I can't quite explain.

Though most of the film seems dreamy and the snippets disconnected, there are indeed a few stories shared by Anderson, tales that have a beginning and end, not just a thought or idea seemingly snatched out of thin air. Those stories broke my heart. They also made me understand a very tiny little bit about what makes Laurie Anderson the unique artist she is today.

HEART OF A DOG may not be a typical film but it's one I think will resonate in some small (or large) way with most viewers—if they're willing to suspend their expectations for 75 minutes and just soak in the movie. Especially dog lovers. And daughters. And folks who can't help but question who and what might be in the endless stream of airplanes flying above us.

The one thing that may not resonate with Grandma's Briefs viewers? Several references to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. It seemed that beliefs related to that book may be a core part of Anderson's experience, so those who may take issue with that just may want to spend their movie time elsewhere.

Bottom line: I'm glad I was offered the opportunity to experience a film that's out of my ordinary movie-watching realm. I had only a passing knowledge of Laurie Anderson in the past, little beyond the fact she's a musician and performance artist. Because of HEART OF A DOG, I feel I now know a smidgen of her heart and past and dreams (and that she was married to Lou Reed). Her powerful film made me want to learn more about the creative and compelling woman.

HEART OF A DOG (NR) opened in the US at the 2015 Telluride Film Festival in September and is now playing in select theaters. Visit the film's official website for more info.

Disclosure: I screened this film for free; opinions are my own.