It’s well known by now that the definition of service animal has gone well beyond the initial seeing-eye dog that we were all familiar with, it even includes miniature horses and helper monkeys but this film takes it several steps further. If, from the title, you’re expecting a sweet film about the benefits of cute dogs helping those in need, you’re in for a surprise. Directed by lead actress Wendy Pennington and written by Stuart Glass, also starring: Sharon Garrison and Steve Corder.
Of course with a 5-minute film the big reveal is never going to take very long, so a few seconds in you get hit with what the title actually refers to, a woman claiming her moustachioed male companion (Corder), as her service animal. It’s a priceless moment, no-one would ever know how to react to that revelation but having it be an air steward (Pennington), whom are basically trained to never let a smile leave their face, is perfect. The writing is great with both, all the usual rejections and questions that the steward would have, as well as the how the passenger (Garrison) has all the answers, finding the loopholes in the legalities of service animals, it’s very witty. It’s also a great choice to not have Corder say anything, if he had, it would make him seem more like a normal human, for lack of a better phrase, despite wearing a dog collar and the silence simply makes it all the more odd which fits in superbly.
The writing also works really well in the sense that the comedy is coming through casually in the conversation, it doesn’t feel the type that would have someone in the corner hitting the classic badum tss after every line. It makes itself appear as though it’s not trying too hard, which is vital with a film like this because pushing the comedy right in the faces of the audience would have been distracting and cheap, which this certainly is not.
One of the other well chosen aspects is the setting, it’s very simple as to, again, not distract from the conversation between steward and passenger, yes you can tell things are home-made but not so much in a sense that it looks out of place, it’s simply filmmakers making do with what they have and has that classic indie spirit. The direction is a lot of back and forth, understandably to switch between the perspective of the steward and the passenger but it very nicely moves to the ‘service animal’ at the right moments in the dialogue, to give some extra punch to the lines.
The acting is great, Pennington manages well with the classic steward composure and posture, she very well portrays the classic customer service conundrum of wanting to tell them they’re insane while remaining utterly polite and composed. Garrison speaks as though she were discussing something perfectly ordinary in her everyday life which makes the character rather fascinating as to what the fullest extent of that might be, and Corder is as mentioned, silently strange by her side but with a surprising amount of personality.
It’s tricky to imagine where a person comes up with the question, what if someone tried to claim a human as a service animal? Honestly, it’s so odd you hope that it actually happened because it would make for a fascinating article and probably a Netflix documentary. It’s almost a shame that it isn’t real because it would be amazing to find out more about that passenger’s life, Service Animal is original, funny and clever, the fact that the cast could even keep a straight face with the dialogue is particularly impressive. During this time, we all need a little spark of joy and this film is a very enjoyable 5-minutes that can provide that spark, it’s a little bit silly and a lot of fun.