Cala, My Dog!

Watch Cala, My Dog!

  • 2003
  • 1 hr 40 min
  • 7.0  (458)

Cala, My Dog! is a 2003 Chinese film that effectively captures the relationship between a man and his dog, and in doing so, offers a poignant commentary on the human condition and the social environment in China at the start of the 21st century. Directed by Lu Xuechang, the film stars You Ge as the main character Lao Er, Jiali Ding as his wife Yu Lan, and Bin Li in a supporting role.

The film’s narrative centers around Lao Er, a blue-collar worker residing in Beijing with his family, which includes his wife, son, and his beloved dog Cala. Cala is not just a pet but a treasured member of the family who brings immense joy and companionship to their otherwise modest and routine lives. The story unfolds in a society that is reeling under bureaucratic control and where pet ownership initially is subject to stringent regulations that require licensing and adherence to certain norms.

The title character, Cala, is a mongrel whose very existence tests the limits of the social norms dictated by the authorities. One day, Cala is taken away by the municipal police for not being registered. Lao Er finds himself caught in a tangle of red tape as he endeavors to retrieve his beloved dog from the authorities. His quest to get Cala back becomes an odyssey that takes him through the alleys and bureaucracies of Beijing.

Throughout the movie, You Ge’s performance as Lao Er is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. He portrays the character’s dogged determination with a sense of realism that resonates with anyone who has ever faced an imposing bureaucratic system. His portrayal reflects the everyman's struggle against an indifferent machinery and highlights the soft-spoken resilience that many individuals resort to in their quest for a slice of personal happiness.

The character of Yu Lan, played with both strength and subtlety by Jiali Ding, serves as a counterpoint to Lao Er’s obsession. She brings to life the hardships and the sacrifices that the family endures, trying to balance the desire to support her husband's seemingly trivial crusade with the practical needs of their family.

As a backdrop to the personal drama unfolding at its center, Cala, My Dog! is also a portrayal of the changing face of modern China. It subtly illustrates the clash between old-world sentiments and the emerging urban milieu, where economic liberalization brings about changes in lifestyle and thinking. Throughout his journey, Lao Er encounters a Beijing that is at once familiar and alien, reflecting the transitions that are taking place in Chinese society.

The film goes beyond the simple story of a man and his dog, delving deep into the themes of loyalty, resilience, and the pursuit of happiness under restrictive circumstances. The bureaucracy that Lao Er faces is symbolic of the obstacles that ordinary people encounter in their lives, challenging their patience and tenacity. The absurdity of the regulations surrounding pet ownership mirrors the oftentimes arbitrary nature of power and the difficulties that arise when one attempts to negotiate with it for personal freedom and dignity.

Director Lu Xuechang crafts the film with genuine affection for his subjects, instilling in it a touch of humor that lightens the otherwise poignant and moving tale. The cinematography captures the narrow streets and the crowded neighborhoods of Beijing, bringing to the audience an intimate look at the city in transformation, offering glimpses of the old being swept aside to make way for the new. The visuals interlace with the narrative, emphasizing the contrasts between personal space and public life.

The relationship between Lao Er and Cala is the lynchpin of the story, exploring the unspoken bond shared by a man and his dog, which becomes a metaphor for the necessity of affection and connection in everyone's life. Cala represents not just a pet, but a fragment of the world that Lao Er yearns to protect and cherish. In his dog, Lao Er finds a sense of identity, loyalty, and unconditional love that is often missing from his interactions with the human world.

Ultimately, Cala, My Dog! tells a universal tale through the unique lens of contemporary Chinese society. It appeals to the viewer's emotions, capturing the intimate moments of joy and despair that define life. Whether you are a pet lover or an observer of human experiences, the film presents a compelling story that stays with you long after the credits roll, prompting one to reflect on the beauty and complexities of human relationships and the societies we navigate in our daily lives.

Cala, My Dog!
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  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    1 hr 40 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.0  (458)