This beautiful true story is actually a remake of a Japanese film entitled "The Tale of Hachiko,” filmed in that country. The viewer learns at the start that Parker Wilson (Richard Gere), a college professor, takes the train to and from work each day. One day, he noticed that a dog was following him out of the train station. Parker is unaware that the Akita has traveled all the way from Japan only to have his cage fall from the baggage cart in the station. The station master, Carl (Jason Alexander) is of no help, so Parker is coerced into taking the dog home. He has every intention of trying to find the owner even though he is charmed by the beautiful animal.
When no one comes forward to claim the dog, Parker decides to keep him even though his wife Cate (Joan Allen) does not approve of the plan. She is finally won over and Parker names the dog Hachiko, since he is a Japanese Akita. Parker calls him Hachi for short.
Although Parker tries very hard to train Hachi, the dog insists on following him every day to the train station. When Parker gets off the train in the evening, Hachi is there also, waiting outside the station for Parker to appear. Carl and various shopkeepers and train passengers begin to notice Hachi and accept that he will be there every day at five o'clock.
It is interesting to observe Richard Gere in this role. He cannot seem to mask his love for Hachi; he is not acting here. He dearly loves this dog, and we sense that it is reciprocated.
We learn from this film that the Akita is not a dog who fetches. Parker tries through the entire film to teach Hachi to fetch a tennis ball, but Hachi will have none of it. Somehow, Parker's daughter's boyfriend succeeds in teaching Hachi to fetch and return a ball, a highlight of the film.
It is a difficult decision to spoil or not to spoil a potential viewer's entertainment by revealing the film's last half-hour. This segment teaches us about the loyalty of man's best friend, endowing him with human characteristics, putting us humans to shame for not possessing the same qualities.
This true story has had a monument raised to memorialize the friendship between Parker and Hachi. A bronze statue of an Akita stands outside the train station which brought Parker home each day and where Hachi waited for him to arrive.
Even those who are not animal lovers will gain a great deal from watching this movie. I fall into that category and I shed several tears during the last 15 minutes.