The best review I've read of Marley & Me (and I didn't read it until after I saw the movie) is this one by Stephanie Zacharek at Salon. It is right on and perfect. I suggest you read that in addition to reading what I have to say below. I'm not repeating anything that she already so perfectly said.
My son, my husband, and I went off to see an afternoon showing of the movie partly to get out of the house (more on that another time) and partly because I've been tugging hubby's sleeve and saying, "Gotta see that," ever since the commercials started. I'm a sucker for dog movies (and cat movies, though there are precious few of those), and I read the book. Who could resist the cover photo and the description of Marley as "the world's worst dog"? At that time, I was dealing with my own "bad dog," Bodhi! I was beginning to wonder if he would ever settle down and become a dog I could walk, take for a ride, or socialize with other dogs. He was, and we did.
The movie theater was packed for both the 3:15 and the 4:00 showing. What the management ended up doing was combining the showings into two theaters and syncing them up. The movie was full of laughs, ups, downs, and honesty. But as we moved toward the inevitable end, the Kleenex began to rustle. A few sniffs were heard here and there. Soon, the tears were pouring freely over my cheeks, and when I glanced to my right, I saw hubby quickly brushing away the tears. Our son, likewise, was sniffing back the tears. The lady to my left and her mother were both quietly sobbing and wiping their eyes. There were no cheap, saccharin moments in the film. It was just brutally honest about loss, and it got that part exactly right.
I couldn't help thinking about Leo, and I know that my husband was right there with me. I never saw him as emotional as he was in the half hour before the final dose was administered to our little man. We were also thinking about Nikki, our Samoyed who made it to 12 years old before she succumbed to one final, painful illness. She died in the back of her daddy's Explorer on the way to the vet in the middle of the night as they were listening to their favorite music. She was his baby, and it was a good way to go. Leo, on the other hand, well, we had to help him on his way.
When I had one final, cleansing cry once we got into the car, I managed to sputter, "I know one thing for sure, I won't be going into the field of pet bereavement!"
And then again, maybe it would be good for someone with my level of compassion to help others with their very real grief over the loss of their pets. Maybe someday, but no time soon. It's been too soon for my own heart.
Marley & Me will forever be one of those movies for me that will give me a good cleansing cry when I need it. The story was so multi-faceted. It was about family, love, loss, setbacks, and just getting through those very difficult days. As Owen Wilson's character (John Grogan) said to his friend Sebastian (played by a yummy Eric Dane) the day after Grogan and his wife had a horrible fight, "Why are you talking about divorce? I want to mend it, not end it." How much different would the world be if only everyone thought that way? It's much harder - but much more rewarding in the end - to hang in there through the tough times. Walking away should never be our first choice. It should be a last resort.
I hope you'll give this movie a shot this weekend. You won't regret it. (This is not a paid advertisement, by the way.)
I hope you all had a very merry Christmas! - D