In many ways, the refreshing and observing Cat in the Wall film by Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova would have been served better by a Cat in the Property title; At times trying to make its own mind which narrative path to follow, it still registers a sense of loss for communal dreams of co-habitation in a London area ready to welcome Brexit.
The film focus is Irina (Irina Atanasova) an energetic, irritable but still common-sense minded Bulgarian in London. IIrina owns her own flat in South Eastern London, in a building that was probably the result of post-WWII social welfare benefit politics (but now it seems to have been left to its own devices). Irina has many artistic projects that won't really materialize, and a night bar job to feed her 5-year-old son Jodo (Orlin Asenov). Her historian brother Vladimir (Angel Genov), a rather dreamy character but a delight to be with kids, lives with her in a perennial search for a work.
And there are the neighbours. In a film where gentrification is even spelled out and debated on screen, the most interesting aspect are now the conflicts appearing between old and new immigrants, UK and Europeans, dogs and cats. An early narrative thread that points out to the restoration of the whole building (with owners having to pay at least 26,000 GBP for its maintenance) seems to move towards Ken Loach territory. Irina, as the most energetic among her neighbors, organizes a meeting for flat owners and building tenants, everything is debated and then decided that nothing can be done.
Here enters Goldie, the ginger cat. For a cat who only appears for a very limited screen time, Goldie has indeed a crucial role to play and unite both the themes of disappointment, and disenchantment with what is used to be communal and neighbourly - now only a battleground for more fights. In a twist of expectations, Goldie won't unite the opposing fractions, it will simply mess up things so much that all politeness will go haywire. Being the contestant for two families, it will simply be the ex machina animal to put those against each other.
Cat in the Wall proceeds in many revelations and stories (of abuse, exhibitionism) that seem altogether real - the area is portrayed as nothing less like an abandoned place ready to go on fire- yet seem to be thrown in to add more credibility to a theme that is already plausible enough. Camerawork utilizes both the external and the internal, and it is particularly impressive in those balcony moments - the place where two different worlds meet. And it is also a wonder to immerse in the worn-out flat of Debby, an English lady now retired from her own hopes but being joined by the disparate likes of Marley, Bowie in her wall.
Exercising a less firm hand over the amount of drama the film really wants to allow, Cat in the Wall still purrs with genuine affection and attracts your attention. It is a blue-tinged story of people who would really like to get along with each other, if they had the understanding, education or opportunity -but apparently they can't.
Director: Mina Mileva, Vesela Kazakova | Country: Bulgaria, Great Britain, France (2019, 1:32) | Producer: Mina Mileva, Vesela Kazakova | Screenwriter: Mina Mileva, Vesela Kazakova | DoP: Dimitar Kostov | Editor: Donka Ivanova | Music: Andy Cowton | Cast: Irina Atanasova, Angel Genov, Orlin Asenov | Production: Activist38, Ici et Là Productions