3.5 out of 5 stars (above average)
Thank you to Jdog Films for reaching out to me for this review.
Shepherd: The Story of A Jewish Dog is a unique entry in the dog movie genre. We follow an animal going on various misadventures to reconnect with its owners… During the Holocaust. Kudos to writer/director Lynn Roth for providing the first dog-centric movie I’ve been emotionally invested in in ages.
In 1930’s Germany, a Jewish family has a litter of German Shepherd puppies. After the kids develop a strong bond with one of the puppies (named Caleb), the Nuremburg Laws go into effect, prohibiting Jews from owning pets and forcing the family to sell Caleb. Sadly, the buyers don’t work out, so Caleb spends some time on the streets before getting picked up and trained for a Nazi camp, where he might reconnect with a family member.
I cannot give enough credit to writer/director Lynn Roth for making Shepherd work. There are cute dog shots aplenty, but the film is more concerned with showcasing the early days of Nazi-occupied Germany and spends a surprising amount of time on its human characters. Newcomer August Maturo (most known for Disney’s Channel’s Girl Meets World) gives an emotional lead performance, and young kids aren’t the target demo. While it isn’t the Schindler’s List of dogs movies, I appreciate the film for highlighting how scary this time period was, even if the dog occasionally fades into the background. It’s a tough watch at times, but the ending (while not outright “happy”) does provide some relief for our characters. Shepherd: The Story of A Jewish Dog breathes new harrowing life into a tired genre by doing something different with it. See Shepherd.
Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog will play in theaters nationwide starting May 28, 2021.
Likely Rated PG-13 for Thematic Elements involving The Holocaust