At its core, Darling Companion is the story of Beth and Joseph – played by Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline, respectively. Beth rescues an abandoned dog on the roadside, names him Freeway and eventually adopts him, much to the chagrin of her husband. The pair are an emotionally alienated couple and they only confront their tense refusal to deal with their estranged relationship when Joseph loses Freeway while staying at their holiday cottage, after their daughter’s wedding.
The film boasts a renowned cast, but the result is quite bland. The lost dog is clearly a plot point served to take the characters on an inevitable journey of finding themselves, as well as their connections with each other. However, the script is weak and feels uncomfortably like a Disney film, where you know that there will only be a resolution once the characters learn the lesson the dog’s disappearance forces them to tackle.
Characters with either conflicting personalities or interests are paired together in the search for the dog. Although not an original idea, the bonding moments are at least endearing with Mark Duplass’ performance as a square standing out from the rest. Keaton infuses her emotions with melodrama and it is aggravating, but slightly redeemed in the balance found in Keaton and Kline’s dynamic. Both characters have flaws and equally share blame for the problems in their relationship, concluding in a warm moment. Ayelet Zurer’s performance as the caretaker at the holiday cottage is not particularly strong and although her inclusion in the story is necessary her character’s clairvoyance is another contrived plot point. Dianne Wiest plays the same soft character she always does, but she portrays this archetype well and makes the character fit.
More could have been done to establish the dog’s character and his relationship with the people in his life, other than a schmaltzy montage in the beginning. Thankfully though, this causes it to steer away from being just another movie about a dog, trying to win its audience over with sentimental shots and a tear-jerking soundtrack. Rather it has a light-hearted soundtrack which suits its setting and the film covers a spectrum of relationships without being overwhelming.