The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Are We Not Cats

You could accurately call Are We Not Cats both a horror movie and a romance, although it is neither of those things in the way we might typically define them. Writer/director Xander Robin has made a film that defies easy categorization. That turns out to be a wise choice in this case. Whatever you think the film is going to be in its initial moments, you're completely wrong.

Michael Patrick Nicholson plays Eli, a young guy who is, in short order, dumped by his girlfriend, fired by his boss, and essentially evicted by his parents. With little to do and even less money, he agrees to perform an odd job that involves transporting an engine upstate. Rather than returning, he impulsively sticks around, only to meet Anya (Chelsea Lopez), an alluring and mysterious woman. The two bond through an unusual psychological compulsion to eat hair.

Let's stop right there. The less you know about Are We Not Cats, the better.

The concept of people eating hair may repulse you. That's the horror part. Robin takes the idea to an extreme in his story, building to a climactic scene that makes you want to look away and not look away simultaneously. I've been a horror movie buff for decades. I have never seen anything quite like what I saw in the last fifteen minutes of this film. What's really shocking about it is that and I know this because I've known someone who ate hair what occurs is actually possible in the real world. Yes, the movie exaggerates it for effect, but the event is based in reality.

The reason why the story knocks you for a loop the way it does is because Robin also takes care to develop the relationship between Eli and Anya. We get to understand that both are longing for something. Both are anxious people, struggling to get through each day. Both find a little bit of what they need in the other person. People with mental illnesses often feel like no one understands what they go through. As odd as their shared compulsion is, these characters find connection through it. Their romance is based on unconditional acceptance, and it's darkly, weirdly beautiful.

Are We Not Cats only runs 78 minutes, so there was room to develop everything more. That would have added significantly to the overall impact. Regardless, the movie is well acted by Nicholson and Lopez, it's visually atmospheric in a really cool way, and it tells a story you will not easily forget. The last shot of the film is just right, offering an emotionally satisfying payoff, while still acknowledging the twistedness of it all.

( out of four)

Are We Not Cats is unrated, but contains adult language, sexual content, some blood, and disturbing images. The running time is 1 hour and 18 minutes.

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