An ode of love to dogs everywhere, Koko is truly a film for all that will touch even the hardest of hearts. Ostensibly a documentary about the hard sought kelpie who played “Red Dog” in Kriv Stender’s adored piece about the dog who travelled throughout Western Australia searching for his owner, Koko: A Red Dog Story offers so much more than anticipated. It is warm, funny and spirited, and so clearly made with care and compassion while still maintaining a truly Australian tongue wedged firmly in cheeks. This is one of 2019’s best, and not merely in Australian film. It’s spectacularly magical cinema which hits all the marks. Just play like a good scout and “be prepared” by taking tissues.
Created by the masterminds of brilliantly wrong mockumentary Top Knot Detective, along with Red Dog producer Nelson Woss, you’d be forgiven for expecting more of the same, but while their irreverent trademark mischief and brand of sass is undeniably marking their territory, it only serves to add to the heartfelt sincerity underlying the story of one very special dog who touched so many viewers.
The interviews with Koko’s original owner, as well as his later accidentally adopted new “human” (Woss), are so raw and real it’s impossible not to fall in love with them. There is a gravity to their passion for this dog that outweighs the levity in the cinematic pieces interspersed between. Koko’s charm is undeniable, his talent definitely something which required work, as it went against his nature as a headstrong, anti-establishment kind of canine. His personality defined the film itself, but required a lot of work by the ever patient crew, whose hearts were completely won by this mighty rebellious soul.
Perth is producing some truly great cinematic experiences lately, and Koko has all the hallmarks of epic success beyond a welcoming West Australian audience. Yes, there are plenty of moments where sandgropers will proudly recognise our state being represented, but the appeal extends beyond and out to animal lovers everywhere, or lovers of the original Red Dog story.
If you have ever loved an animal, this is for you. And if you haven’t, well, you need to look at your life choices and see this to change your life for the better. If you don’t leave the cinema yearning for a new slobbering, cuddly friend, who will adore you forever, you need to get a cardiogram to check for the location of your heart.