Sunday, January 28, 2018

VOD debut: Melissa Dowler's service dog documentary, ADELE AND EVERYTHING AFTER

I can't imagine any animal-lover or viewer interested in service dogs not lining up to see a new documentary that has been quite a hit on the festival circuit and makes its VOD debut this coming Tuesday, January 30. ADELE AND EVERYTHING AFTER, directed by Melissa Dowler (shown below), is the story of a young woman named Marty who has had since childhood an unusual kind of heart disease that can cause her to suddenly faint at any time and any place, sometimes leaving her bruised, bloody and concussed.

As her condition worsens with age, affecting not only herself but her young child, and with no cure on the medical horizon, Marty turns to the idea of service dogs and what help this might render. As the documentary points out, she was the first person ever to use a service dog for this affliction, and while it does take some time for her to understand the dog's "signals," once she does, the fainting never happens again. Although Ms Dowler's movie has an odd arc (its emotional climax occurs maybe halfway along), the tale told here is so unusual and will so strongly appeal to animal lovers (of service dogs in particular) that recommending this movie as a "must" goes without saying. (But for god's sake, keep a box of tissues handy; you'll need them.)

Marty's history is provided via archival footage and some enacted re-creations, but the heart of the film is given over to this woman and the two dogs who most help her: the titular Adele (above, with Marty), the first of the two, and Hector (below), the second.

The wonderful organization, Canine Partners for Life, who supplies Marty's animals, is given a lot of screen time, too, and it is fully deserved. We watch, as the new owners learn to train their dogs and come to understand their "language," and how the dogs eventually respond with such full-out help that it's sheer amazement. How do these dogs manage it? It's not all that clear as yet, but what is clear is that they do it.

And they do this constantly: in the pool, on the walk, at home, at work. Amazing. Once Marty, and we, get over the upcoming loss of Adele and the change-over to Hector, you'll use less of those tissues. For me, the most upsetting part of the film was wondering and not knowing how Adele herself felt about the loss of her "patient." Of course, that's anthropomorphizing, isn't it? But this proves difficult not to do, when the animal figure is as important as here.

As Marty and her husband both tell us, because of what Adele and Hector do for Marty, they are closer to her than even her husband. This situation -- the bond between the service animal and the owner whose life the dog saves over and over -- will prove to be something new and different for most of us to consider, and this documentary does a very good job of bringing us up-close-and-personal with many of the details of the situation.

After viewing the doc, so impressed was I with the organization, Canine Partners for Life, that I am sending it a donation forthwith. Once you've seen this remarkable film, I suspect you may be moved to do so, too.

From Gravitas Ventures and Long Haul Films, Adele and Everything After hits VOD this coming Tuesday, January 30, and will be available on most major streaming platforms -- for purchase and/or rental. 

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