My Dog Tulip

My Dog Tulip


Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

If you haven't heard of author JR Ackerley (1896–1967) – he was the literary editor of BBC magazine The Listener for many years. But he also penned several memoirs - Hindoo Holiday, My Dog Tulip, and My Father And Myself, and a novel, We Think The World Of You. My Dog Tulip is the source for this beautifully animated film that is both a warm and witty tribute to man's best friend and an odd couple love story.

My Dog Tulip is a bittersweet memoir of Ackerley’s relationship with his pet Alsatian bitch, Tulip, whom he adopted in middle age despite never having ever considered owning a dog. Her difficult behaviour, health problems and eccentricities were a constant trial (though one gets the impression her grumpy man-of-letters owner was just as eccentric and hard work), but in his own curmudgeonly way Ackerly concludes that for 16 years she provided the companionship his life had always been lacking. The experience of loving Tulip leaves him contemplating the unfathomable nature of relationships between all beings.

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Award-winning filmmakers Paul and Sandra Fierlinger made very specific choices when it came to animating Ackerly's memoir - this is the first major animated feature ever to be entirely hand drawn and painted utilizing paperless computer technology. The result is truly beautiful to behold - imagine amateur watercolour paintings of a daydreamer's London of yesteryear, complete with black cabs and red buses splashing through puddles - mixed with a dash of Roald Dahls' favourite artist Quentin Blake.

The animation style perfectly suits the relaxed, drifting and always engaging voiceover work of Christopher Plummer as Ackerly. Plummer absolutely nails the world-weary, gruff, droll tones of a highly-educated man who prefers his world just-so, with the kind of psychological armour only a dog like Tulip could find a chink in. But neither the animation nor the narration choices ever go for easy sentimentality or manipulation, this is a story of two beings, difficult in their own ways, who just happened to find each other and have 16 years together.

The film is also refreshingly down-to-earth and candid in depicting the biological trials and tribulations of looking after a dog: expect plenty of recollections of episodes of vomiting, diaraheoa and the challenge of keeping a bitch in heat safe from the hordes of hungry male dogs in the park. Needless to say, this is not an animated film for children.

Admirers of more offbeat animated films created outside of the big corporations, such as The Illusionist, will definitely want to see this.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2011
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Bittersweet tale of one man and his dog.
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Director: Paul Fierlinger, Sandra Fierlinger

Writer: JR Ackerley, Paul Fierlinger, Sandra Fierlinger

Starring: Voiced by Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave, Isabella Rossellini, Peter Gerety, Brian Murray, Paul Hecht, Euan Morton

Year: 2009

Runtime: 83 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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