“The Art of Racing in the Rain” Might Make You Cry. But That’s Not Why You Should Watch It.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” Review by Amy Kellestine
From the classic “Benji” to the more recent “A Dog’s Purpose”, the relationship between humans and their furry companions have long been fodder for films that tug on your heartstrings. “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is the newest incarnation that will not only leave you wanting to hug your loved ones (furry or otherwise) a little bit closer. It will also challenge you to consider how you navigate life’s difficult moments—as well as your beliefs about life, death, and what happens next.
The film follows Enzo the dog (voiced by Kevin Costner), named after race car driver and founder of the automobile marque, Enzo Ferrari; and Enzo’s adoptive dog-dad, Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia), a race car driver and instructor hoping to make it big one day. It covers Enzo’s entire life span and the human family that evolves around him. While Enzo is still young, Denny meets future partner Eve (Amanda Seyfried) and they get married and welcome baby Zoe into the fold. But don’t let this fool you into thinking you’re in for another “Look Who’s Talking Now”. Enzo is as adorable as a golden lab can be, but he contemplates tragedy when Eve passes away after a battle with cancer and her parents (Martin Donovan and Kathy Baker) sue Denny for custody of Zoe.
In spite of Denny’s difficulties, however, Denny and Enzo’s navigation through challenges is nothing short of inspiring. Enzo lives by Denny’s racing-inspired analogies like “No race is won in the first corner, but many have been lost there” and “There is no dishonour in losing the race. There is only dishonour in not racing because you are afraid to lose.” Even during their darkest hours, including Enzo’s own decline in old age, Denny and Enzo work as a consistently patient and loving team to support each other.
Creating a film that spans this much time can be tricky, but screenwriter Mark Bomback and director Simon Curtis manage to cover a lot of ground at a pace that feels just right. Unfortunately, however, even though the original Garth Stein novel was good enough to be a New York Times bestseller, the screenplay reveals a couple of plot holes on close analysis. For example, does Denny really bring Enzo with him to all his races when he’s a puppy? And if so, why does Enzo stay behind with Eve after Denny and Eve tie the knot?
Though the number of tear-inducing plot devices used in this film verges on excessive, the film did offer a template for living life when the going gets tough. Immediately after the heartbreak of watching a small girl lose her mother to cancer, we’re thrown into the melee between Eve’s parents and Denny. It reminded me that, just as we can’t stop the waves of the ocean, we can’t stop life’s events from unfolding. Denny serves as a role model for how to weather the storm. He has a support network of longtime friends (and Enzo), he focusses on what he can control, he gets expert advice when required, and he never wavers from his values.
Those with a spiritual bent will be interested to see strong messages about the afterlife and reincarnation embedded within the story. Eve confesses to Enzo that she’s not afraid of death as she nears her final days with cancer. “I know it’s not the end,” she says. “But you know that, don’t you?” Enzo learns from a TV documentary that some Mongols believe some dogs come back as humans in their next lives. And there is a delightful ending in store for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet.
On one level, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a sweet story of the unconditional love between a dog and his human, and the perseverance and teamwork it takes to navigate life. On another level, it invites us to reflect on how our actions and choices in this lifetime might contribute to something greater. You’ll be inspired by Denny and Enzo’s strength and resilience, but be warned: you may want to bring a whole box of tissues to the theatre.
Amy Kellestine is an educator, engineer, Arati life coach and entrepreneur living in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends her free time camping, gardening, and volunteering for causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and nature conservation. She is a devoted mother and is passionate about helping others and writing.