Animal movies are not for me. I have two dogs that I love more than most of the humans I interact with on a daily basis, but for the life of me, I rarely connect with onscreen canine personas in any meaningful way. Any film dealing with a human’s love for their furry friends typically leaves me very cold, which is why I was surprised by how taken I was with last year’s Megan Leavey.
Based on a true story, Kate Mara plays the eponymous real life figure who enlists in the marines on a whim when she realizes that she is coasting on a daily routine that would make any psychiatrist cringe. Wanting to finally take some ownership of her life (or to punish herself for wasting it up until that point), she em-barks (woof!) on a journey that leads her right to Rex, an adorable German Shepherd that is undergoing training to perform deadly bomb checks in Iraq. Rex, like Megan, seems a little behind his peers and both of them put up a heavily guarded front that is more bark than bite. Their shared resistance to life’s daily routine ends up becoming a bonding agent between the two, as they become inseparable and lovingly tied up into each other’s hearts.
Even though you can sniff out the plot points from a mile away, that doesn’t stop the third act from losing its potency as Megan must learn how to live her life away from the war after she is honorably discharged. The dueling stories as to whether she or Rex has a place outside of the war is incredibly touching, as the story never downplays the fringe issues that crop up (PTSD, depression, divorce, etc). While these may seem like heavy topics, Megan Leavey only takes its characters as seriously as needed, creating a balanced tension between humanity and despair. It’s perfect family viewing, as there’s a little bit of everything and not too much of anything. You might not remember the film a year after you’ve viewed it, but I doubt your night will be the same should you choose to give it a try.