Dir. Heddy Honigmann, Netherlands, 2018, 86 min.

The title of “man’s best friend” seems like an understatement here.

The Dutch documentary, Buddy, explores the deep connections people have with their service dogs. Each scene provides vignettes from the lives of six people and the canines that help them. Perfectly balanced, the film offers up the lighthearted, funny moments animals give us right alongside powerful and emotional glimpses into when their people need them most.

An opening shot shows a woman named Edith van der Meulen jogging along a dirt path, a white cane in one hand and a canine named Makker trotting on the other side.

The dogs assist in everyday tasks, such as leading people with visual impairments like Edith. For another woman, her dog can even administer a syringe of medicine by gently nudging it with his nose. The animals alleviate symptoms of distress from a veteran’s PTSD to a young boy’s autism. The film shows these instances with grace, keeping a calm tone; the viewer feels like a guest in the homes of these people and their helpers.

The film’s genuine approach allows viewers to immerse themselves in the lives of its subjects, as they discuss their experiences and the undeniable bonds they have with their dogs. Then, they move forward. They live their lives, and the filmmakers follow both the sweet new memories and the more tragic ones.

Buddy displays the universality of humankind’s relationship with dogs and shows the complex beauty of being human while needing someone who is not.

Buddy screens in Winston-Salem on Sunday at 8 p.m. at Hanesbrands Theatre and at 8 p.m. on April 9 at SECCA. 

— SE

You may also enjoy these other Riverrun 2019 reviews:

Lupe: This drama centers of a transgender protagonist who, while searching for their sibling, also searches for their true identity.

Ode to Joy: In this film, Martin Freeman plays a man with cataplexy, or a condition that causes him to fall asleep if he experiences joy. When he meets a woman and falls in love, managing his disorder becomes harder.

Find the full list of reviews here.