Now Playing! Pet Sounds and Local Scenery in Finn Taylor’s ‘Unleashed’

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Still from 'Unleashed.'

Twenty years after his marvelous indie debut, Dream with the Fishes, and a decade removed from his last feature (The Darwin Awards), East Bay writer-director Finn Taylor remains as whimsically empathetic as ever.

His fascination with the urgent and often ridiculous need for intimate connection reaches a kind of extreme in his new pastel-hued, pop hook-infused romantic comedy, Unleashed: The heroine, played by the winsome Kate Micucci, discovers in her trusted pets the comfort and companionship that evades her among our species. Taylor’s fourth feature premiered last fall at the Mill Valley Film Festival and opens Friday, Aug. 25 at the Roxie (after a one-night stand at the Smith Rafael Film Center tonight, Aug. 21). Taylor will be on hand for Q&As tonight at the San Rafael show and next Saturday and Sunday nights in San Francisco.

Before your imagination darts down dark alleys, the conceit of the film is that a freak astronomical event transforms her cat and dog into human beings or, rather, amusing upright versions of themselves (played by a sleekly sexy Justin Chatwin and a goofily husky Steve Howey, respectively).

Taylor has a lot of fun injecting animal behavior into everyday situations, and gently mocking the awkwardness of interpersonal interactions. But his central concern is the human yearning to avoid loneliness. Crammed with locations all around the bay, Unleashed is an endearing and oddly touching date movie for those who love people as much as they do animals.