Ruth Smith, Monda Wooten, Ann Brown
Christina Thomas, Samantha Wishman
First Run Features
It would be easy to simply call Free Puppies! one of the truly feel-good docs of 2022, though I can't really say that such a description really describes this absolutely engaging and entertaining feature doc from First Run Features scheduled for a limited nationwide theatrical release starting August 12th. I mean, sure, it for the most part actually is a feel-good doc. There are puppies galore here and a good majority of them are getting rescued and placed in homes.
That feels good.
However, Free Puppies! is a documentary with a mission and that mission comes vividly to life not just in ways that feel good but also in ways that are serious, meaningful, driven, and sometimes even a little sad. Co-directed by Christina Thomas and Samantha Wishman, Free Puppies! follows passionate dog rescuers throughout rural counties in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama and it tells not just the feel-good stories of dog rescues but the often heartbreaking reasons why dog overpopulation happens in the first place, why it's often so hard to do something about it, and how all of this can lead to the sad result of even the most fervent dog rescuer having to euthanize dogs.
Free Puppies! looks and feels like a down-home slice of Americana from the twangy notes of its original music to the delightful people featured in the film including Ruth Smith, Monda Wooten, and Ann Brown among others. There's never a moment when you don't absolutely love these women and their mission, though they often face seemingly insurmountable obstacles from a lack of volunteers to rescuing in towns and cities with small populations, small budgets, and pretty much non-existing funds to support their efforts.
I found myself most captivated by Wooten, a city commissioner and business owner in Trenton, Georgia - population 2.303. Wooten relentlessly tackles the rescuing of dogs in her area and is equally as relentless in pursuing the spaying and neutering of dogs. She faces resistant dog owners, wary residents, and a myriad of people who just don't seem to get it. She seems to never give up.
Free Puppies! is for the most part a hopeful film and I may have shed a tear or two along the way including in one particular scene involving a very difficult to place hound dog who was simply adorable. At times incredibly joy-filled and other times rather heart-breaking, Free Puppies! is definitely a film for dog lovers, dog rescuers, and really anyone who can appreciate a simple, sentimental and inspirational documentary.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic