To state the bleedin’ obvious, if you are not a dog person you won’t want to bother with this. If you are, like me and the old lady who entered the cinema assisted by a walking frame, then try to catch it – it’s delightful and not nearly so formulaic as this type of flick usually is. The old lady, who sat on the other side of the aisle, was one of those people who run a commentary and read the signs on the screen – when somebody knocks on a door that says caretaker, she says ‘caretaker’ to her doddery hubby. But I could tell that she was enjoying the film as much as I was and, in a way, her involvement seemed right and proper. It gets off to a very shaky start, with schoolteacher Sarah (Beattie Edmondson) inheriting Patrick, a nine-year-old dog (a pug), bequeathed to her by her late granny. A series of lame gags ensue as the pair get to know each other – yes, he eats her slippers and trashes the flat – but before long the story finds its groove and manages to surprise with subtle romantic twists and old-fashioned teen classroom dynamics as Sarah tries to get the kids interested in Jane Eyre. Director Mandie Fletcher, with a background in television (Absolutely Fabulous, Black Adder among others), cuts to the chase in all scenes and allows the extremely likeable Edmondson to win your empathy as the single girl who is up against it. The Thames has never looked lovelier than in the sunny location shots and the inevitable happy ending is arrived at after a not-too-traumatic dark moment. Typically strong performances from a support cast of jobbing actors, including Jennifer Saunders (Edmondson’s mother) and Adrian Scarborough, combine with the youthful charm of Emilia Jones and Emily Atack to create a friendly and smart entertainment. It’s corny to the point of being downright naff, but I left thoroughly satisfied while the old lady was happily wiping tears from her eyes.
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