Holiday Movie Review / ‘Pick of the Litter’ (G) *** and a half

WHICH of your senses to you regard as the most indispensable?

A friend from my first job who recently resurfaced from a Canberra suburb tells me about the car smash that among other things destroyed her sense of smell. “I don’t live to eat; I eat to live.”

That’s a bummer, but she can see and hear. Have difficulty reading the fine print on a frozen-food package? Get spectacles. Want to avoid a domestic tirade? Turn off your hearing aids.

But how do you cope when, from whatever cause – congenital, life’s accidents or experiences – you literally can’t see your hands in front of your face? In whatever degree – partial or total – impairment or loss of vision does not necessarily ruin a person’s life. Sure, it makes life difficult, particularly that basic need which we take for granted, knowing which way we are going wherever we are. But many blind people live fulfilling, even important, lives.

Q: What kind of animal is man’s or woman’s best friend?
A: Not a horse, a rabbit, a cat, a budgerigar or a goldfish. A dog.

People with sight enjoy a profound blessing. We can walk to our seat in the cinema. We can connect with what’s on the screen. We can even read reviews to help us decide whether or not to see a particular film. Vision-impaired people don’t have those autonomic capabilities. Not even if they have a patient, intelligent, loving, committed four-footed companion to guide them to a seat in the cave where movies deliver their magic.  

“Pick of the Litter” describes the long (and expensive) process involving time, patience, human and dog devotion and commitment for giving vision-impaired people an almost unlimited ability to go wherever they need – situations as diverse as crossing a road or walking among a crowd on a footpath.

Not just any dog. And not every puppy that starts the training program will avoid, as the American Guide Dog people put it, a “career change” before graduating.

It’s a deeply emotional film enclosing an insoluble paradox. The beneficiaries of its message are the only people unable to enjoy its full gambit. Hearing the soundtrack is all well and good, but one picture can say much more than a mouthful of words, an earful of environmental sounds.

There’s no overt appeal in the film to donate money or time or help to the guide-dog community. Some things speak for themselves. The film speaks American but its message is worldwide.

At Palace Electric, Dendy, Capitol 6 and Hoyts

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