Old Cats: movie review

Old Cats

Elderly couple Isadora (Bélgica Castro) and Enrique (Alejandro Sieveking) are nestled eight floors up in an apartment building in downtown Santiago, with two corpulent cats and a lifetime’s haul of animal figurines. Thanks to her brittle hips and an inoperable elevator, Isadora is effectively confined to her apartment; thanks to her senility, she’s forgetting things and talking to the air. In comes Rosario (Claudia Celedón), her hot mess of a coke-snorting daughter who, along with her lover (Catalina Saavedra), schemes to take possession of the flat while petulantly looking for long-denied affection.

Though it’s been three years since the film’s New York Film Festival debut, this exquisite chamber piece by Chilean filmmakers Pedro Peirano and Sebastián Silva (Crystal Fairy) hasn’t lost an ounce of its understated power. Our understanding of Isadora’s experience comes less from observed detail—though the camera acquires plenty of that—than from total immersion in her POV. Through camera placement, pacing and Castro’s agitated gaze, we feel her terror and her disorientation in rooms she knows by heart. The wild-eyed Celedón and stealthily empathetic Saavedra introduce a farcical element to this otherwise mournful milieu, but the tonal clashes yield something genuinely cathartic, if also ultimately irresolvable.

Follow Eric Hynes on Twitter: @eshynes

Release details

Duration: 89 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Sebastián Silva, Pedro Peirano
Cast: Bélgica Castro
Alejandro Sieveking
Claudia Celedón
Catalina Saavedra
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