Ensemble look at people in the orbit of an animal shelter in Cape Town. Kate, the shelter manager, is having an affair with a married man, is estranged from her father, and has caught the eye of a widowed veterinarian. Lindiwe, a single mom, is a domestic for an Afrikaner household and studies at night. Her son becomes the acolyte of Jean Claude, a refugee from Congo with a Ph.D. in astronomy; he's the shelter's handyman, good with people and dogs, hoping to immigrate to Canada. Shairfa, who also works at the shelter, and her husband Habib are trying without success to get pregnant. What is it that holds the matter of the universe together? Written by
[Kate enters the studio]
Are you here for the class?
Come in, come in, don't be shy. We're just getting started. You're in luck. We happen to have one available dance partner for you right here.
[He leads her to Morne]
And just the right height. Your name is..?
Morne, this is Kate - Kate, Morne. Now where was I? Ah, tango. Or what they call in Argentina, "the dance of love".
I have to warn you - he always humiliates the new person.
[Advancing towards Kate]
Would you be so kind as to ...
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This is the "Must Love Dogs" movie that pulls you in up close and personal to the heart-warming characters and their stories by a coastal town in South Africa
This may seem like a small film - may not have the gloss and "slickness" of Hollywood productions, but the integral smallness of it all made it a successful and entertaining ensemble piece. Can almost say it's a symphony of sketches about the people and their lives at this Cape Town community.
This is the "Must Love Dogs" movie with heart-warming stories of characters you care for and want to follow on what's happening in their lives and how they cope in their relationships. Sounds like soap (opera)? Isn't everyday life just?
Having recently saw writer-director Rodrigo Garcia's "Nine Lives" - vignettes of nine women and how their lives intertwined, you might say director Mark Bamford's feature debut "Cape of Good Hope" is about three women: Kate, Sharifa and Lindiwe. But then, from another aspect, the script co-written by Bamford and his wife Suzanne Kay (also the producer) revolves around this animal rescue center (there's the must love dogs inference) with Kate the shelter owner who seems to relate more easily with animals than humans, Sharifa the receptionist who has fertility worries at home, and Jean-Claude, a Congo refugee who was an astronomy professor now trying to immigrate to Canada, helping Kate with tending the animals and training (taming) growling dogs. Through the three, we get to meet Morne, the gentle (widowed) veterinarian-studio dance pupil-cook who has his eyes on Kate; Habib, Sharifa's husband who tries to be nonchalant about his wife's pursuit of a viable pregnancy is a soft-hearted man after all; Lindiwe, the pretty single mom to Thabo (the little boy with his pet trick smart dog) who's a housekeeper by day and college student by night, caught Jean-Claude's eyes and a beautiful friendship blossoms.
Now that's not all, we get to realize Kate is rather insecure in her relationships with her Mom, her Dad, and her married lover man (whom we mostly get to 'see' when she talks to him via phone). Then there's the episodes about Kate's Mom and her lover man. Soap it is. But human kindness flows and intertwines, as the obvious key quote uttered by Jean-Claude, that "Love is what keeps the universe glued together." There are magic moments when we see him with Lindiwe, marvelously portrayed by the pairing of Eriq Ebouaney and Nthati Moshesh. Debbie Brown played Kate, splendidly showing all the nervous tension of her insecurities in the most casual of manners, matching the naturalness of Morne Visser playing Morne. The rest of the cast, including the role of Lindiwe's mother, is equally effective and diverse (in spite of clichés). Same with the music by J.B. Eckl, somehow enhances and ties the stories together unobtrusively befitting.
While checking on the word "Mutt," couldn't help but think of the parallel of taking care of mixed-breed dogs, that their temperament and rapport with humans matter, and the investment of time and energy in the nurturing of such is unequivocally similar to human to human relationships.
This may be a small film, but it is richly packed, with its delightful surprises and humor inclusive.
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