Review by Sarah Williams
We Don’t Deserve Dogs is a film whose subject matter lives up to its title. All about the good that comes with our canine furry friends, different scales of four-legged kindness are shown. With production travelling eleven countries in just thirteen months, the documentary is an impressive bit of filmmaking with just a two person team (who also happen to be a married couple), director and cinematographer Matthew Salleh, and Rose Tucker as both producer and editor.
2020 seems to be the year of nonfiction and quasi-documentaries about dogs. The festival slate has had plenty about sick and injured dogs this year, so it's a breath of fresh air to see them featured in something more positive. This episode in the domestic dog saga is so filled with love and reverence it’ll surely find an audience, the kind of late night comfort food you put on after a bad day at work.
A world tour of dog stories, We Don’t Deserve Dogs has many stamps on its passport. We see how pet dogs help child soldiers in Uganda, the passersby of a pub in Scotland, and hear the story of a dog walker on the streets of Istanbul. There’s working dogs too, some that hunt for truffle mushrooms, some that stand watch, and some that are just there to guide. There’s some love that transcends culture, and that same love transcends species in the ways of the dog.
Not all of the stories are as cleanly shown, and everyone will probably have a least favorite segment, but it jumps around so much you’ll always have something better coming up. Of course, these jumps across the globe do feel a bit disjointed, but it’s usually in more of a montage style than messily stitched together. There’s often not much connecting these vignettes other than the shared love of dogs and what they bring us, so it’s not a film for those who aren’t already animal lovers.
The worldwide array of people and their dogs, and the diverse array of meaningful connections and mutually beneficial relationships is a beautiful thing. The score is gentle yet paces the film along, and it’s shot nicely for a smaller documentary, with some great static shots of the countries visited. The camera often gets down on the eye level of the dogs, and they come close to the camera to look it in the eye. It’s hard not to want to be there with them!
We really don’t deserve dogs and what they can do for us. A dog can’t understand everything we say and do, yet they somehow find a way to help anyway. There’s a lot of heart on screen, whether it be from behind the camera, or from the dogs and the people they bring joy to. It’s a lovely interspersing of “hero dog” stories and the mundane roles they take, which prevents it from ever becoming too heavy. We Don’t Deserve Dogs is the feel-good film of a festival that never was.
We Don't Deserve Dogs was set to debut at the cancelled 2020 SXSW Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.