LITTLE Q (2019) review

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Far from an exploration of Maggie Q’s childhood, Law Wing Cheong’s Little Q is an adaptation of the Japanese novel The Life of Quill, the Seeing-Eye Dog, by Ryohei Akimoto and Kengo Ishiguro, itself based on a true story and already brought to the small and big screens in Japan. Here, Simon Yam plays Lee Bo Ting, a renowned chef who after going blind has become perpetually angry and despondent. His sister (Gigi Leung) encourages him to get a guide dog, and a resourceful golden retriever by the name of Little Q is chosen for the task. Proud to a fault, Lee doesn’t want to rely on a dog, but soon Little Q starts melting his defenses, and a beautiful friendship is born.

Little Q, like so many films about human-canine friendship, relies on excellent and endearing dog performances, but beyond that does the bare minimum, with an alternatively soapy and cutesy story that aligns life’s bliss and life’s ordeals like noodles on a kindergarten kid’s Mother’s Day gift necklace. And while we are spared an ear-splittingly saccharine voice-over by the dog, à la Josh Gad in A Dog’s Purpose, composer Lowell Lo makes sure every single second that we know for sure that this is a beautiful story, with a score so treacly and overbearing, watching the film on mute becomes a viable option.

There’s even pointless subplots added to try and jerk some more tears: a little girl who must foster Little Q for a year or two before it starts its guiding mission, keeps misunderstanding that she’ll be able to keep it forever (her mother is played by the all-too-rare Charlie Yeung). Still, Simon Yam turns in a powerful performance, the dogs playing Little Q are all superb (even though it’s all to easy to spot when one dogs takes over for another in the role: Little Q’s muzzle is alternatively all-black and spotted depending on the scene), and it would take a stone heart not to marvel at the selfless competence of guide dogs.

Long Story Short: Trite and treacly, Little Q coasts lazily on the inherent appeal and cuteness of dogs, though a powerful performance by Simon Yam does bring poignancy. **

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