Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Bulgarian filmmakers Vesela Kazakova and Mina Mileva, Cat in the Wall is a new drama dealing with timely themes for modern British society. However, even though it makes a compelling argument for its political message, the story isn’t rounded enough for the film to have its full impact.
The movie follows a family of Bulgarian immigrants in London whose lives are thrown into disarray when a conflict with their neighbors over a cat escalates. This film is firmly rooted in realism, inspired by the experiences of the British working and migrant classes. As with many slice-of-life movies dealing with the impoverished, Kazakova and Mileva’s script takes a rough and gritty approach to the subject matter.
That said, there is an element of dark humor inherent in the film’s premise. Even though the movie is dealing with some urgent and weighty issues that plague modern society, the fact that the conflict is largely centered around a cat adds some absurdity to the film. While the laughs aren’t constant, they are frequent enough to keep the movie moving.
Arguably the film’s biggest success is its ability to provoke conversation. In addition to being about the plight of the British working class, the movie has a lot to say about racism and xenophobia. It is the latter that makes this film such an important piece of social commentary, as those are issues being experienced by people all around the world, not just in the country in which the movie is set.
That said, the character development in the film did need some additional work. The movie purports to have an objective lens on the central conflict, but with the way in which the characters are written, it is obvious in which direction the favor tilts. It would have benefitted the film and its message had the writing been a little more well-rounded.
The acting in the movie is very naturalistic, likely because a majority of the actors in the film have little to no experience. The lead actress, Irina Atanasova, does a great job of bringing humanity and emotion to her role. In the supporting cast, Angel Genov and Chinwe Nwokolo bring a lot to the table in terms of both emotion and comedic relief.
Kazakova and Mileva shoot the movie with an almost documentary-like approach, which is both a blessing and a burden. For one, the roughness of the visual style helps to immerse the viewer into the world of the film by creating a sense of discomfort. However, this sense of discomfort does become somewhat overwhelming at times, making the movie unpleasant.
Cat in the Wall has a lot of interesting ideas in play, but these good ideas didn’t always come to fruition into a satisfying product. Still, Kazakova and Mileva have a lot to say about society, and their message needs to be heard sooner rather than later.
Cat in the Wall was set to screen at the cancelled 2020 SXSW Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.