Are you feeling a little lonely these days? Do you have the desire to meet new people but lack the confidence to strike up a conversation? These days it is easier to make new viral “friends” then to look someone in the eye and engage in verbal and nonverbal communication. You see, without the truth of the eye most folks are blind to the true nature of a stranger. So how can you fill the hole a lack of companionship makes? Why not Rent-a-Cat?
Sayoko (Mikako Ichikawa) is a young woman who has the uncanny ability of drawing in cats. Unfortunately, these animals are the only companions that are pulled toward her as she lacks any sort of human relationships. As a child she was very close with her grandmother who shared Sayoko’s bizarre gift. Now that her grandmother has passed Sayoko is truly alone with the exception of her nasty neighbour who attacks her confidence at every opportunity, explaining all the reasons why she is doomed to never find a husband.
Whenever she can Sayoko goes out and walks along the river, armed with a megaphone and a cart full of her feline friends. Promising to rid people of their loneliness she offers her cats as companions, hence the name of the film. Split up into four different chapters, Rent-a-Cat is a pretty straightforward film. She interacts with an elderly woman and recent widower, a businessman away from his family, a young woman working at a car rental and an old acquaintance from her childhood school. Each is unaware of how lonely they are until these cats come into their lives and offer an escape from isolation.
Director/screenwriter Naoko Ogigami crafts an impeccably cute and often humourous film with a fun narrative. Though the cats share as much screen time as the main character, Mikako Ichikawa’s performance controls every scene. She is as adorable as her four-legged friends and when she talks to them it is as if they really can hear her. The softness in her eyes allows the audience to slip into this fantasy and accept the idea that relationships can come in many forms.
The most endearing chapter comes from her conversation with the elderly widower. After her husbands death she did have her own cat to keep her company. Unfortunately, the cat passed as well and now she believes she is doomed to spend the rest of her days alone as her children have grown up and left the home. Sayoko’s offer brings a glimmer of hope into the old woman’s life and upon receiving the cat the loveliest smile explodes on her face. It’s enough to make a dog-person, like myself, grin from ear to ear.
Rent-a-Cat celebrates its simplicity often times repeating exact lines from chapter to chapter. It’s a film that doesn’t try to be anything more than it is: an escape from a world that sometimes gets to big for an individual to handle on their own.