There are films that hit you immediately with the enormity of their content. And there are those that slowly boil and then simmer down. It is hard to place While The Cat’s Away… into either of those. It is undoubtedly striking, for both, its story and execution and there are multiple times across its 10:59-minute duration that one is tempted to pause, simply because of how engaging its presentation is, but it leaves one stunned rather, with its daring plotline and no-fuss direction. A feat for a film of its timeline, While The Cat’s Away… is particularly laudable for its visual treat but even more for its ability to hold its audience hostage much after its credits begin to roll.
Sarah (Cariad Wallace) is bored. After the quick tidying of the messy apartment, a text from her dearest Brad leaves her with ample time to while away. Too many of us have been in similar situations. In the privacy of our rooms and with the luxury of time at hand, we have all reduced ourselves to self entertainers. Many of us can recount the hilarious doings of our alters. But, in writer-director-editor Aaron Carroll’s short, which is based on Davin Sgargetta’s screenplay of ‘Man About The House’, it isn’t just innocent idling. It is a full-blown entertainment of the highest order. Sarah turns the house into a theatre for her performance and we, as her faithful audience, cannot be more thankful.
Wallace makes Sarah an absolute amusement to watch. Her ebullience is only matched with Andrew Worboys’s composition that belies the genre of the film. As we become more and more intrigued and drawn into this Sarah-induced ambience, we fail to notice the subtle hints that Carroll leaves throughout the film. A seemingly silly prop left unattended, Sarah’s full name as displayed on her social media account, the antics of Sarah that should by now start to ring alarm bells. It takes an actor of much skill to be able to shoulder a film of this kind all by themselves and to Carroll’s credit, Wallace is just the person. There’s an unmissable twinkle in her eyes that is hard to forget, an exuberance in her gait that is inimitable and, of course, the stunning owning of her performance in the eccentricities laid out before her. Wallace makes Sarah someone we root for. In her vibrant openness, she not only embraces life, but also makes her our best ally.
Cameron Zayec, who not only is our Brad, but also the cinematographer understands the lens for a bottle film such as this. In the neon-lit interiors that turn into a kaleidoscope of colours for the night, Zayec’s camera follows Sarah, matching her in her rhythmic steps and wild goose chase. Take particular note of the scenes that involve her dancing. Not only are the colours used to the advantage here, but also a mark of exemplary editing that makes the fast-paced direction a seamless movement through the narration.
Stacey (Cecilia Low) whose presence is limited to perhaps mere seconds plays a significant role in highlighting Sarah’s character arc—a brilliant addition to a story that might have otherwise only remained an entertainer. Instead, by introducing the other characters of the film in a finely-tuned timeline, what Carroll achieves is not only scope to build the narrative to its climax, but also prove that he is a master storyteller.
Watch While The Cat’s Away… to redeem yourself of any complacency. We can wager that this short is bound to make you reassess your understanding of character development and cinema.