Review: ‘A Dog’s Life’

Hot Docs 2016

2 mins read

A Dog’s Life
(Canada, 67 min.)
Dir. Hélène Choquette
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (Toronto Premiere)


Hélène Choquette gives a down-to-earth and sincerely humane portrait of the nation’s homeless in A Dog’s Life. While many Canucks with the privilege to sleep under roofs often liken homeless people to tramps on the street, Choquette invites humans who sleep on the curb to share their experiences. This empathetic character study lets Canada’s homeless explain how they arrive on the streets and survive without basic human rights such as shelter. The results are surprising.

The strength of A Dog’s Life is Choquette’s focus on the element of companionship that many people enjoy in their cozy domesticity. This relationship is with pets, dogs specifically, and the film interacts with homeless people in Montreal and Toronto who persevere with the aid of their pet pooches. The stories reveal the feelings of security and company that one takes for granted, as the subjects disclose how dogs save their lives. More surprising are the stories that highlight the practical elements of owning a dog on the streets: pups invite sympathy and increase income for panhandlers. Shared bodily warmth, similarly, makes harsh winters slightly more tolerable.

As the film humanises its subjects, Choquette carefully distinguishes people from animals. The stories advocate for pet-friendly shelters and invite us to reconsider homeless people with four-legged sidekicks. It might be a cliché, but this doc proves that dogs really are man’s best friend.

A Dog’s Life screens:
-Wednesday, May 4 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 6:45 PM
-Thursday, May 5 at 10:15 at the Isabel Bader at 10:15 AM
-Saturday, May 7 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 6:30 PM


Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.



Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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