If you’re still feeling very big feelings after Episode 3 of “Lessons in Chemistry,” thanks to some poignant narration from a certain pup, don’t worry — you’re not alone. In fact, directors Bert and Bertie specifically set out to do that. But, they do admit that telling a story of grief through the lens of a dog was “eye-opening,” even for them.
In this particular episode of the Brie Larson-led limited series, now streaming on Apple TV+, the opening minutes tell the origin story of Six Thirty, the dog Elizabeth Zott (Larson) adopted who later tried saving Calvin Evans (Lewis Pullman) from running out into the street to his death. Not only is it a heartbreaking origin — he started as a military dog, but ran away — but the narration that follows, courtesy of B.J. Novak, likely left you holding your own dog close, as Six Thirty mourned his running buddy and blamed himself.
Telling the story through the dog’s perspective came from the Bonnie Garmus novel that inspired the series and, according to the episode’s directors, it wasn’t challenging so much as it was revealing.
“It was actually kind of eye-opening,” Bertie told TheWrap. “To put emotion and perspective, and to put a dog in the driver’s seat of all those emotions was something that we haven’t done before.”
She continued, “We’ve had animals in our shows and our movies, but we’ve never stopped to consider their perspective as much as we did with Six Thirty. And so even though it’s a heartbreaking episode through and through, to see it through Six Thirty’s perspective and also Elizabeth’s makes it a double whammy. That opens what grief can be.”
Bertie’s directing partner Bert noted that, like any project, there were the pre-requisite challenges of working with an animal: how long a scene might take, keeping them focused, etc. But for the duo, the hardest part about working with Six Thirty was seeing how happy of a dog he is in real life.
“It’s a very interesting way to think about framing a shot through a dog’s eyes and through the lens of grief,” she said.
Of course, that’s why Bert and Bertie do what they do in the first place. If you’re feeling particularly heavy after having your emotions projected onto and from Six Thirty, they’re calling it a win.
“We strive to tell stories that have some kind of consequence,” Bert noted. “Apart from the entertainment value of the seeing things from a dog’s perspective, there’s fun things that we can do, the visual things. But, [I] always just get excited about getting into a character that hopefully will change the way that the audience are thinking about something.”
She continued, “And if we can do that in an entertaining way, in a way that makes you stop an episode, and have an emotional reaction, then that’s exciting because, you know, I can blow things up, and I can frame things beautifully, and I can do a fancy camera move. But actually, what’s exciting is to move people. Whether it’s to tears, to laughter, to thinking about their own marriage, their own relationships. And in that way, we can ultimately, hopefully, change the world a little bit, if we’re telling the right stories.”
“Lessons in Chemistry” is now streaming on Apple TV+.