Pick of the Litter
Out Now On-Demand
Spanning two years, this documentary follows five Labrador puppies as they train to become guide dogs for the blind.
"At eight weeks old, a litter of puppies is distributed to volunteer ‘puppy raisers’ responsible for training and socialising the dogs. Some handlers are experienced and others nervous first-timers. The pups are an equally mixed bag – two girls, three boys, black and golden, rowdy and shy. They are evaluated throughout their growing years, before starting an intensive training course." (Sydney Film Festival)
Documentary, Festival & Independent
An unavoidably cute and moving inquiry into the inability of humans to wholly function without the blessed existence of doggos, Pick of the Litter ruthlessly draws blood—or tears, both the same here—within its first minute. I challenge anyone to make it through this self-proclaimed “dogumentary” completely dry-eyed as it observes the emotionally devastating two-year odyssey of five pups to qualify for the Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Excuse the overblown tone—Pick of the Litter does have a way of putting one’s normally steely critical aptitude to the test. Just the names of the candidates alone—Phil, Poppet, Potomac, Primrose, Patriot—are a destabilising affront to the senses. Seriously though, it’s a well-made, absorbing work, packing ample heart, drama and insight into a concise package.
Certainly, the filmmakers can’t resist the formula of structuring the narrative like a contest. There’s no one dog we’re rooting to succeed more than the other, but in case we’re unable to keep tabs on who doesn’t make the cut, there’s an animated scoreboard that pops up intermittently to remind us.
The tight focus on the thoroughness of the process prevents things from liquefying into a mawkish cute-overload. The puppy raisers and trainers are all overcome with heartache and disappointment in one way or another, but also united by the goal to find the goodest boy or girl for the job.
In the end, Pick of the Litter essentially throws a mirror back up at us, reiterating one indisputable truth: we truly don’t deserve dogs.
New York Times
Los Angeles Times
Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)
Sydney Morning Herald