Being a dog-lover, I must admit that on my first viewing of this film, I cried my eyes out. Not even in a silent crying way, but rather in a whole-body-shaking-bawling-with-tears-while-yelping kind of a way. Only a handful of movies have ever evoked such an extreme response from me. This Richard Gere film is an exceptionally heart-warming story about a dog, Hachiko, and his owner, Parker Wilson.
The story is very simple. It is a dog and his human’s story of love and friendship and loyalty. Hachi is a puppy in transit who gets lost at the train station and is rescued by Parker who tries to find Hachi’s owner. Unable to do so, Parker brings Hachi home to keep him safe while trying to find a happy, loving and safe home from him, because he knows his wife would not be happy with him adopting and bringing home an Akita dog with him. However, he quickly forms a special bond with the dog and spends all his free time with Hachi in the backyard, hoping to love and care for the puppy for whatever time he has with him. Their energy and their bond is so infectious that even Parker’s skeptical wife can see how happy they are in one another’s company and she agrees to call off the search for finding Hachi a different owner.
Thus, Hachi finds a happy and loving family in Parker, who in return is more than willing to reciprocate his affection for the dog. Parker is a professor with a fixed routine and a job that allows him to board the train to come home from work at 5 PM. Hachi, an exceptionally smart dog, forms a habit to walk his human to the station in the morning and waiting by the station every afternoon when Parker comes back. The schedule is such a routine that even the other people who work nearby the station catch on this camaraderie since very early on. Since the plot of the movie is fairly easy and direct, it shows us a lot of repetitive scenes of Hachi coming up everyday to the station for his reunion with Parker. This routine is shown countless times in the movie.
In a rather cruel series of events, Parker suffers with a stroke and dies while teaching a class to his students. That fateful day, Hachi, as usual, shows up at the station to wait for his owner. Little does Hachi know that Parker is never going to meet Hachi again, ever. Despite different people trying to explain the situation to the dog, Hachi continues to go by the station everyday at 5 PM waiting for Parker to show up. Waiting for something that will never happen again. Feeling pity for the dog, Parker’s daughter, Andy, decides to bring him over to her house so that he would stop his daily routine by being in a different place. However, the following day, Hachi still finds his way back to the station, going up to his usual spot, waiting for Parker to show up. He does that irrespective of whether there is rain or snow. When this continues to happen, Andy decides to let Hachi do his own thing and she sets him free. With his new freedom, Hachi still continues to wait by the station from 5 PM to 9:30 PM everyday, after which he would go to the abandoned spot at the railway juncture and take shelter under a train engine.
Seeing the dog return everyday, the local people at the station take pity and they decide to feed the dog and keep him comfortable while he waits the routine four and half hours for his human. This continues for 9 years after Parker’s demise – a longer period of time than what the two actually had together. Hachi is now old. But he still makes his journey everyday. Hoping to finally meet Parker. Hoping to play with him and love him and spend time with him. Hoping for just a moment of reunion. Hachi’s hope and conviction that he sustained for his whole life. And just like that, even on his death bed, while he is still waiting at his spot at the railway station, Hachi finally enters his dreams where he meets Parker and they run together. Even writing about it brings back the overwhelming emotions.
There is no complicated plot or any complex message. Just a simple one – loyalty and compassion. And the story does a remarkable job at conveying just that. And it does it in such a strong way and leaves such an impact that it is impossible to ignore the one message that movie has been screaming at us the whole time. Just a story of a dog following his routine his whole life, trying to meet someone who will never come back. A story about love and loyalty. A story about how your one act of kindness can mean everything to someone else and how it shapes up their entire life, just them trying to repay you like Hachi did for Parker. That even if sometimes we cannot understand each other, we should let love do its own thing because it defies rationality. It’s impossible to ignore and it is the most heart-warming thing that we can ever find.