Review of CSDF film A Cat Called Dom
What was supposed to be a simple, comedic film about director Will Anderson’s mother’s cancer diagnosis turned into an eight year long endeavour. A patchwork project of documentary and animation which perfectly reflects the harsh realities of the creative process.
A Cat Called Dom is an experimental documentary directed by Scottish animators Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson who both star in the film. Originally it was planned to be about Will’s mother who had been recently diagnosed with mouth cancer. Ultimately, the project evolved far beyond anything either creator could imagine.
The film opens with a recording of Will who recounts the filming process from his own perspective in the style of a letter to his mum. These video diaries appear throughout the film taking the viewer on a journey by fast-forwarding, rewinding or highlighting certain clips. They narrate the highs and the lows as Will and Ainslie work on the film.
Will describes it as a ‘flawed’ film but it is also very human. It doesn’t follow a perfect chronological order or contain beautiful cinematography. However, it expertly encapsulates the relatable experience of having coming to terms with a family members illness. The fear, the confusion, the avoidance. All of these emotions are woven into the every aspect of the film.
The Frankenstein mash-up of styles, the seemingly unrelated shot choices, the blend of fact and fiction. The final product wears its eight-year history proudly. The directors do more to highlight where the film has deviated as they uncover the true purpose of the film.
A Cat Called Dom is unlike any project the pair have ever undertaken before. Although, they haven’t abandoned their animation roots completely. The titular character of Dom (Tobias Feltus) is a black cat who lives on Will’s laptop screen. The two have several poignant conversations throughout the film.
The inclusion of a animated cat doesn’t take away from the emotional centre of the film – Will’s relationship with his mother. The combination of humour and heart is a highlight, with Dom providing the majority of the comedic moments, but also is what ultimately forces Will to realise what he truly want to do with his film.
While it is evident the style is intentionally unconventional, it can be difficult to follow and the lack of clarity surrounding which shots are staged and which aren’t. These factors do contribute to a confusing viewer experience.
However, all of these aspects, such as the blended mediums, add a lot to the flawed nature of the final product. It perfectly encapsulates the disorganisation associated with the creative process. So, its flaws become its strengths.
A Cat Called Dom is a heart-warming and darkly funny film. It still delivers on the emotional gut punches as it reminds audiences what is truly most important in life.
Featured Image: Central Scotland Documentary Festival