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The Independent Critic

Abbie Cornish, Tim Rozon, William Baldwin, Patrick Muldoon, Lola Sultan
Kirk Harris
Johnny Harrington
96 Mins.
Samuel Goldwyn Films.

 "Dakota" a Well-Meaning, Gentle Family Film 
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There's an abundance of heart beating inside Kirk Harris's family drama Dakota, a Samuel Goldwyn Films release that has arrived on digital after a limited coastal release and a September DVD release in the works. The film centers around Kate (Abbie Cornish), a recent widow whose husband was killed in Afghanistan. One of his war buddies, CJ (Tim Rozon) shows up at the homestead with Dakota, a German Shepherd who fought by her husband's side and who will now take up his place at the family's Georgia farm. While trying to run the family farm and the local volunteer fire department, Kate also has to fend off overtures from the local sheriff (Patrick Muldoon) about her land which, rumor tells it, is quite valuable. 

If the Hallmark Channel screened family films, Dakota would undeniably qualify. The film is unabashedly good-hearted, well except for that sheriff, and this is a film that will remind you of Saturday television family films of the past. Originally scheduled to actually be shot in Georgia, this pandemic-shot film instead took its modest budget to Italy where things had opened up a bit more. 

I have to chuckle thinking about a bunch of Italians trying to decipher the Georgia accent. 

Originally released about the same time as Channing Tatum's returning vehicle Dog, Dakota is a vastly different motion picture much more likely to please fans of Dove Approved cinema. There's nary an edge to be found here, though Muldoon's caricaturish spin as the sheriff sure works up the smarm. 

Ever since Abbie Cornish showed up on the Hollywood scene in the remarkable Blue Car, I've been looking for the gifted actress to breakout. Dakota definitely isn't the film that's going to do that, though it's a refreshing change of pace from the edgier, more action-tinged cinematic fare where she seems to find her bread and butter these days. 

Tim Rozon oozes sincerity as CJ, while the film's real highlights are Lola Sultan as Kate's daughter Alex and Katie McGovern as Stacy. 

Dakota is beautifully photographed by Giuseppe Pignone with an original score by Andrea Grant that nicely complements the film. Johnny Harrington's script is a little too paint-by-numbers to land a strong impact, though not every film needs to please critics. This is a family film and families will find much to love here with a story that is gentle, heartwarming, and genuinely kid-friendly. 

If you skipped Dakota the first time around or you just couldn't resist that Channing Tatum film, then you may want to look over at this Samuel Goldwyn release and check out this low-budget film with a heart of gold and a dog you'll likely not easily forget. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic