Telegraph.co.uk.fxsc.ru

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Advertisement

Wonderland: Walking with Dogs, BBC Two, review

Wonderland: Walking with Dogs (BBC Two) was a deceptively powerful documentary about dog walkers, finds James Walton

4 out of 5 stars
Albert Abela is one of the dog-walkers featured in Vanessa Engle's Wonderland: Walking with Dogs
Albert Abela is one of the dog-walkers featured in Vanessa Engle's Wonderland: Walking with Dogs Photo: BBC

For Wonderland: Walking with Dogs (BBC Two, Monday) director Vanessa Engle had the straightforward idea of hanging around Hampstead Heath and talking to dog-owners about what their pets mean to them. At first, it seemed as if the result might simply be a chance to chortle at how bonkers these owners can be — which would have been fine by me. “My view is that dogs are people too, it’s just that they have four legs,” said Marianne, a woman clearly proud of her love for “little white fluffy things”.

Yet, while she and others did continue to supply chortling opportunities, the programme soon turned out to be a lot more than that. Instead, it became the TV equivalent of a powerful collection of short stories - most of them melancholy, and all of them linked by firm (and to us canine sceptics, rather shaming) proof of how much emotional support dogs can provide.

Like the best short stories, the ones here didn’t divulge all their secrets - but somehow suggested whole worlds lying below their surface. Of course, one reason for this restraint is Wonderland’s commitment to old-school documentary-making. Nobody was pushed to say more than they wanted — or even required to act out scenes from their own lives. Another reason, though, was the people themselves. The following night, the final part of Ian Hislop’s Stiff Upper Lip argued that the recent death of British reserve may have been exaggerated. Had he known, Hislop could easily have called Walking with Dogs as Exhibit A.

Along the way, we heard from a recovering alcoholic, a pair of bereaved parents and a man who’d abandoned a successful career in the music business to look after his senile father.

But, however sad their stories, everybody spoke with an understatement that ranged from the touching to the heart-breaking. More astonishingly still, there wasn’t a single tear to be seen.

Take Karen, who’d moved to London from Yorkshire because her husband John was “not very well”. In practice, this meant he’d spent several months in hospital and was now facing life in a wheelchair. “Will you be able to deal with that, John,” asked Vanessa Engle’s off-screen voice. “I don’t have much option,” John calmly replied - although he did go as far as to admit that it was “a bloody nuisance”.

Top Galleries

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

More from the web

LISTS AND QUOTES

More from the web

Loading

Back to top

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2017

Terms and Conditions

Today's News

Archive

Style Book

Weather Forecast