In this wildly imaginative French animated film, a little dog named Marona — who’s had several other names first — relives her life with several owners.
Told in an ever-changing, kaleidoscope of animated styles — cut-outs, hand-drawn, computer-generated — it’s a stunning visual delight.
But Marona’s tale (which is now out on DVD and Blu-ray) is also an incredibly sad one. It begins with Marona (voiced by Lizzie Brocheré) having been hit bit a car and hovering between life and death as she remembers the highs and lows of her life.
She remembers her mother, Sissy, a “street dog who was “of all races and no races,” and her father, a snobby purebred Dogo Argentino. Born of a chance encounter, Marona is the ninth puppy born in her litter and the first given away, to her father’s owners, who quickly dump her on the streets.
“For dogs, happiness is different than it is for humans. We want things to stay exactly the same, whereas always humans always want something new,” she says as she realizes the acrobat who takes her in has ambitions that don’t seem to include her.
All through the film, she shares her insights on human and dog relationships. She’s learned they’re temporary and imperfect, at best. Her advice, “Lick your human’s face very day as though it will be the last, because one day, it will be.”
Eventually, she’s found by a little girl named Solange, who sneaks her home and calls her “Marona.” The girl’s mother and grandfather do not approve and end up merely tolerating Marona’s presence.
“Life had taught me that happiness was just a break from the pain,” Marona shares. She settles into an uneasy existence with the family, whose feelings for her wax and wane. While the grandfather warms to her, the daughter grows up and becomes bored and self-absorbed.
The scenes leading up to the accident are unbearably heartbreaking, since you know what’s coming.
It hurts all the more because Marona, with her heart-shaped nose that none of her humans ever even mention, is so cute, so lovable and so eager to please.
The movie is reminiscent of “Lassie, Come Home,” as the dog goes from person to person, but in that classic film, everyone Lassie met loved her and wanted to keep her. And there was her beloved little boy (Roddy McDowall) waiting for her at the end.
There’s no happy ending here, no blissful doggie heaven, just the few moments of joy and happiness in one dog’s life.
It’s a dizzyingly gorgeous film, but one that will shatter your heart into a thousand pieces.