Graphic by Natalie Brink
Book and movie review: ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’
December 12, 2019
A Look at the Book
When I picked up Garth Stein’s “The Art of Racing in the Rain” in a frenzied rush to read it the night before I had to write an essay about it, I didn’t expect to cry at the first chapter. Since it was a book for school, I thought it would be as dry and boring as all the other required books in English. I was very wrong.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a dramatic novel that follows racecar driver Danny Swift and his family through the eyes of his faithful golden retriever, Enzo. The driver and dog support each other through the trials of life. From Danny’s relationship with a woman Enzo feels he can’t compete with, to babies, the harsh realities of a racing career and a cunning murder of crows that torments Enzo.
The emotional impact this book has had on me is immense. Usually, when a dog narrates a story, it has an overall comical effect. This novel had funny moments (see: a murder of crows that torments Enzo), but the main tone is sensitive and full of humanity. Enzo’s narration offers the readers an innocent lens with which they can witness the heartbreaking story. A human voice would taint the story, add grudges and bitterness. But a dog narrator removes these negative burdens from the storytelling. Enzo still dislikes some characters, but not in a way that distracts from the plot, like what would happen if Danny was the story’s narrator. Using a dog as the narrator was a brilliant twist to the drama genre.
The characters in this book are all wonderfully crafted. They come across as living people, and I do not know how Stein does it. I do know that these rich characters allow for complex relationships to form between them. And even Enzo is a well thought out, fully realized character. His noverbal relationships with Danny and, begrudgingly, Eve (Danny’s love interest) seem realistic, even with one of the characters being a dog. Enzo even becomes the protector of their daughter Zoë, which is truly the most touching relationship in the book.
Every reader knows where the book ends to some extent, because the first chapter takes place when Enzo is old and dying. It also features a dog as its main character, so his death is no real surprise. Still, the ending hit me like a bag of wet cement. To this day, I can’t reread the book (I usually reread books that I love) because of how it ends ー and also because how it starts. It makes narrative sense as to why Stein framed his story this way, but I wish the book ended differently. I should mention the book has an epilogue of sorts to soothe the pain of the ending. So if you end up reading it you won’t be completely devastated, just mostly devastated.
I read this book freshman year, and it is still one of my favorite books. Certain moments are so poignant that they stay with me still. Such as Enzo knowing a terrible truth about Eve but not being able to tell anybody because he is a dog. Or Enzo’s rivalry with the crows that winds up with him tricking them into eating his own waste. This is a book capable of slipping into your thoughts days or years after you have read it, and I think that is something only extraordinary stories can do.
If you love dogs in any way, shape or form this book with be both a really distressing and a really uplifting read. If you love books in any way, shape or form this book has a wealth of literary merit for you to uncover. It will make you cry one moment, but laugh the next. It is a complex family drama that grips you until the very last page. My advice is that anyone looking for a genuinely touching, intimate story about the life of a family should pick up this book. You will most likely cry more than once, but if you are willing to read it, you will uncover the delightful storytelling that Stein has to offer. Just take a deep breath and dive in.
A Look at the Movie
Last night I decided to sit down, test my emotions and finally watch “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” a dramatic and romantic yet comical film that put the incredible story by Garth Stein on the silver screen. Directed by Simon Curtis, this magical adaptation stars both well-known and arising actors, such as Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried and Kevin Costner, who voices the adorable golden retriever, Enzo.
This creative film features a love story like no other. Following not only the relationship of Denny, played by Ventimiglia, and Eve, played by Seyfried, but also the bond between a man and his dog, it’s already a movie bound to captivate audiences of all ages. The story starts will Denny’s spontaneous decision to buy a puppy one afternoon and picking Enzo out from the liter. Named after a Ferrari, this adventurous pup and busy racecar driver begin their journey together in the urban area of Seattle. Once Eve, Denny’s love interest, steps into the picture, the story takes a bit of a turn. The audience relives the life of a family: getting married, buying a house, settling down. All of these experiences are pictured not only in the perspective of Enzo, keeping some shots private and secretive, but also narrated by him.
Diving head first into one of the biggest aspects of this film that caught my attention, I would have to say the cinematography was phenomenal and perfectly captured all angles and moods necessary for telling such a heart-felt story. Most of the shots are done normally, with cameras focusing on family aspect and picturing the dog living alongside them, but some were done from the dogs perspective. The audience gets to see Enzo’s world through his own eyes, with close-up shots on Denny, Eve and their daughter, Zoë, whenever they were eating dinner, playing in the yard or having important conversations in the kitchen. Along with the interesting shots that were taken from the angle, producers also managed to incorporate a coloring scheme that informed the audience on the mood of a scene or to represent the progression in emotion. There was one moment when the shots were montaged together, showing a passing in time. As the montage went on for longer, shots got darker, with cloudy skies or dim house lighting to convey something monumental was about to occur in the plot.
Another thing I applaud the screenwriters for is managing to not stray far from the original meaning behind a story like this, and managing to keep an audience engaged without too many negative emotions involved. I mean come on, it’s a movie where the main character is a dog, and you go in expecting it to NOT make you cry? Ridiculous. “The Art of Racing in the Rain” had the perfect balance of emotion to keep things interesting without drowning the viewers in tears. I feel as if too much emotion would’ve caused the film to lose sight of the overall message that’s told at the end. There were several moments that kept me guessing and just the right amount of scenes to get my eyes watery.
Now, I am not one to cry during movies, so it’s rare for me to write a review where I can say that I was genuinely emotional for at least half of this movie. It’s one of those classic story-lines that hit close to home and manage to top my list of “Top Five Saddest Things Ever Watched.” I’m glad I had my best friend by my side the entire time, because at least then I wouldn’t be an awkward bundle of blankets crying on my couch, alone in the middle of the night. I had someone to share my emotions with. If you are interested in seeing this movie, which you should be, because it’s a cinematic masterpiece, I suggest taking a loved one you (preferably a dog). That way, you can have a fluffy shoulder to cry on when things get crazy and a companion to hug once it ends. After all, you should cherish every bit of time you have, because you never know when the rain will wash them away.