Title: Darling Companion
Director: Lawrence Kasdan (‘Body Heat,’ ‘Silverado’)
Starring: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins and Elisabeth Moss
People often don’t realize the value and meaning of companionship until their relationship is strained and they become emotionally or physically separated. This is certainly the case in the new drama ‘Darling Companion,’ which focuses on what happens when a married couple starts to emotionally grown apart, and can no longer connect. When they finally find something to connect over, a dog in the case of the film’s main married couple, Beth and Joseph Winter, they’ll do anything they can to protect it.
‘Darling Companion’ follows Beth and Joseph (played by Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline) as they both learn to cope with their two daughters, Grace (portrayed by Elisabeth Moss) and Ellie (portrayed by Lindsay Sloane), living on their own. Beth views her successful surgeon husband as self-involved, so when she finds an abandoned dog at the side of the freeway, she decides to rescue and keep him. While Joseph is hesitant at first, he comes to care about the dog, who Beth has named Freeway.
After Grace marries the veterinarian who treated Freeway, Sam (played by Jay Ali), at the Winters’ country cabin, Beth and Joseph stay behind with his sister, Penny (portrayed by Dianne Wiest); her new boyfriend, Russell (played by Richard Jenkins), who everyone is wary of; Penny’s son Bryan (portrayed by Mark Duplass), who is also a surgeon; and the cabin’s caregiver, Carmen (played by Ayelet Zurer). When Joseph is walking Freeway in the woods, the dog becomes lost, setting off a days-long search of the area. Due to their love and devotion to Freeway, and their devotion to finding him, everyone begins to reevaluate their lifestyle choices and relationships with each other.
On the surface, the drama, which was co-written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, just appears to be an innocent family film chronicling the all-to-familiar and innocent tribulations of a missing dog on a household. But Kasdan effectively mirrored the many struggles married couples face after being together an extended period of time, and the underlying, adverse problems their battles place on their families and each other. Beth and Joseph showcase many couple’s internal resentment towards each other once their children move and start their own lives; they no longer have anything to fully commit to with each other, so Joseph feels it’s perfectly acceptable to devote his time to his career.
While Beth is resentful towards Joseph for neglecting their marriage, saving Freeway gave her a sense of purpose, and allowed her to feel needed again. She learned to take control of her situation, and not allow Joseph to dictate her decisions anymore, both in keeping and searching for her beloved dog. As Joseph comes to unexpectedly care for Freeway as well, he comes to understand his wife’s feelings of loneliness and having an emotional space in her life. Their joint determination is the main driving force in helping to not only find Freeway, but a way to rekindle their relationship.
Russell is one of the more intriguing characters in ‘Darling Companion,’ as he is the complete opposite of who anyone expects Penny to end up dating. While Joseph, Beth and Bryan only see Russell as being opportunistic and eager to swindle Penny out of money to open a pub, he ends up proving everyone wrong with his unquestionable devotion to her well-being. Russell also brings comic relief to the film, as he isn’t afraid to say the things everyone else is thinking.
While ‘Darling Companion’ features a seemingly simplistic plot following a fighting family bonding as they search for their missing dog, Kasdan actually elegantly showcases the problems plaguing many families today. From feeling neglected by a spouse to looking down on the person a family member has begun dating, the drama boldly highlights some of the most important issues in society. But even the seemingly most innocent act of rescuing an abandoned dog, and looking for him when he gets lost, makes the film both realistic and intriguing.
Written by: Karen Benardello