Quebec premiere
Selection 2019

The Island of Cats

Directed by Mitsuaki Iwago

Japan 2019 103 mins OV Japanese Subtitles : English
Genre Drama

“A mental vacation, with images of lovable cats and portrayals of pure-hearted island folk easing away stress like a long soak in a hot spring”
Mark Schilling, JAPAN TIMES

Tama-san has a good life. At six years and seven months old, he’s at an age when one becomes more profound, the very prime of manhood. Moreover, he is well tended to by his servant, the aging widower Daikichi. He has a busy social life too, checking in and hanging out with many friends and neighbours. If there is anything to complain about, it’s that pretty Mi-chan, who lives nearby, rebuffs his gentlemanly advances. Indeed, a cat’s life is good on this little island of fishermen and retirees. The only constant in life is change, though, and changes are coming. Some are benign, like the lovely young Michiko, newly arrived from Tokyo to open the island’s first café (and catch the eye of the busy village doctor, Tasuku). Some are more troubling, though — the realities of declining health are catching up with Daikichi and his friends.

Adapted from the popular manga by the illustration duo Nekomaki, THE ISLAND OF CATS is the kind of light-hearted, sweet-natured slice-of-life dramedy that hinges to no small degree on performances of its on-screen cast. In its favour, the film’s stars are outstanding in the roles, truly memorable, Oscar-worthy even. The human actors aren’t too shabby either! Shinosuke Tachikawa, an award-winning rakoguka (stage storyteller) and novelist, is just grand as Daikichi. Comparable in tone and theme to the beloved 2003 Quebec film LA GRANDE SÉDUCTION (SEDUCING DOCTOR LEWIS), THE ISLAND OF CATS is the debut feature from director Mitsuaki Iwago, whose previous career as a wildlife photographer assures the finest filming of the felines that sneak into almost every frame of the movie. Given that the Japanese are second only to the ancient Egyptians in their obsessive veneration of cats, it’s unsurprising that feelgood cat movies are a staple of Japanese cinema — Fantasia has shared more than one with our audience over the years. Within that genre, THE ISLAND OF CATS finds itself a worthy spot in the sunshine — just like the proud and self-assured Tama-san himself. – Rupert Bottenberg