The antithesis of both Marley & Me cuddliness and Cesar Millan militance, J.R. Ackerley's 1956 memoir about his recalcitrant German shepherd is one of the finest, most insightful chronicles of interspecies devotion. The writer's empathy and wit are mostly well served in Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's adaptation—the first animated feature to be entirely hand-drawn and painted using paperless computer technology. Flat is beautiful: The Fierlingers' simple 2-D design is an excellent match for Ackerley's pithy observations and abhorrence of the mawkish. Despite a few missteps, including unnecessary anthropomorphization, the Fierlingers' Tulip is absolutely faithful to Ackerley's wistful honesty and introspection. The happiness that man and dog shared for 15 years could be tempered by extreme doubt, as the author frequently wondered whether or not he was failing the creature he loved so dearly and who loved him unconditionally. His gift—and the film's—is to transform the seemingly banal relationship between pet and owner into something singular, inimitable, sacred.
Ackerley and his best friend.
Runs at Metro, Fri., Nov. 5–Thurs., Nov. 11. Not rated. 82 minutes.