Directed By Jake Thomas
Starring – Karla Droege, Lex Quarterman, Jacquelyn Zook
The Plot – A bored house cat who longs to explore the outside world escapes his home after he mysteriously transforms into a human.
The film is currently not rated
– On par production. “Shedding” is an independent film, first and foremost, so without the kind of budgets or backing that blockbuster studios can supplant, it inspires the crew behind the camera to work harder in making the most of the budget they’re granted. It brings forth many positive results in the form of an emotionally expansive musical score from composer Robert Allaire, which occasionally dabs into some adventurous spins with a techno electronic sound, sharp editing that wonderfully maintains the continuity between shots, and an articulate sound design that illustrates as much about the environment from the ears of this cat as we can absorb immersively. It all summarizes an experience with the film that never broke my faithful attention towards it, conjuring up an abundance of creative that not only bridges the gap between independent and big name studios, but also proves how hard the crew worked to attain this level of creativity that springs up all over the presentation of this picture.
– Eye level cinematography. I wanted to give this aspect of the film its own section because I was thoroughly impressed with how committed the shot selections were in dissecting the vantage points between the two world’s, human and feline, that the film conveys. When we are with the latter, the photography and angles are very grounded, complete humans only being depicted at foot level. When our protagonist becomes human, the shots adopt a more elevated approach that documents the world through the level of his newfound height enhancement. It proves versatility in the capabilities of co-cinematographers Jake and Erin Brown Thomas, but aside from that cements the kind of grip to the project that they constantly maintained on the story’s transformative points and visual approaches, granting ambition and wonderment in tying the two worlds together in cohesive movements and speeds that really cement this as the same character.
– Impressive direction. I’ve always believed that working with actual live acting animals is one of the more difficult feats in directing because of the unpredictability of the element itself, which often can’t be controlled. That feels seamless for a professional like Thomas, who directs the movie’s two feline accomplices with impressive levels of precision that continuously keeps them moving within the beats of the story. I can only imagine how much footage Jake shot in piecing everything together, but the footage that he does maintain treats us to no shortage of cute cat interaction, as well as a full blown dissection on the dull repetition of a day in the life of a cat that often has you investing in a character that you share no moments of dialogue connection with. It’s in that emotional complexity that Thomas exerts where the film finds a balance between adventurous and bittersweet, that proved the script’s depth, and whose intentional tonal imbalance catered more to the spontaneity of life, which is often a series of highs and lows.
– Rules in context. Part of my love for the world that Thomas creates is his attention to detail between transformations that supplant psychology to living as a different species for the first time in ones life. When becoming human, this cat character’s instinct immediately tells him to walk on all four’s, instead of the two legs that humans travel on. In addition to this, there’s moments of delightful toilet humor, the necessity for clothes while out in the real world, and the laws of gravity that don’t play as friendly to someone who now weighs around 150 pounds more than previously established. This is easily the most overlooked atmosphere of animal transformation movies that often overlook the smallest details on the way to attaining believability, but it’s clear that Jake has put time into immersing himself into the life of a curious cat, and it’s one that attains a fine level of satisfaction on its own merits to compliment the sweet sentimentality that the movie’s themes evolve towards.
– Talented ensemble. There’s only three credited actors throughout the entirety of this film, but the work delivered from them each offered moments of scene-stealing charisma and dramatic depth that really served the context of their characters spectacularly. The obvious turn is from that of Quarterman, the movie’s primary protagonist, who is tasked not only with conveying the movements and instinct of a cat, but who also has no available dialogue to reach emotional emphasis. Lex’s deep and sorrowful eyes are the key here, and speak volumes to an almost childlike innocence from within him that bottles fear, sadness, curiosity, and calm in a world he’s never fully experienced. Droege and Zook are equally as compelling as a mother/daughter duo whose characters and work kept the movie’s second half from feeling redundant. They both have distinctly different levels of dealing with the grief that has unfortunately defined their family, and in Droege’s case, plagued her with a frailty of vulnerability that speaks volumes to the void that Quarterman’s newfound familiarity has filled for her.
– Big themes, small world. That brings me to the material itself, which far exceeds the boundaries of thought-provoking commentary on its way to some pretty hefty themes of grief, self-preservation, and even momentary reincarnation that the movie occasionally hits on. These elements prove that the movie never rests on its laurels of the gimmick of transformation itself, but beyond that prove that it has a lot to say in the philosophies of a world that still aren’t clearly defined in the minds of its believers. In this regard, the movie made me think a hell of a lot more than I was expecting to, and I can certainly see the parallels to 2017’s “A Ghost Story” in the many theories of life that far exceed the physicalities of a body. Nothing ever feels heavy-handed or preachy, nor does its conclusions draw any pre-conceived notions in trying to draw its audience one way or another.
– Naturalistic exposition. This is especially difficult with a movie with very little dialogue like this one has. However, the interactions between characters always mature with a sense of realism and spontaneity that allow the benefit of information to materialize in a way that transcends its screen of fiction. This is especially realized in the film’s second half, where the focus of the story tends to fall more on Droege and Zook’s shoulders, and we get a revealing look into the lives of a family falling apart at the seams because of a loss that haunts them. We are treated to a few exchanges between these two that vividly paints a picture towards the information that we weren’t previously privy to. What I love is that some of the information is easy to piece together because of the superb dramatic work of these two, but also because it’s a universally shared ideal that is easy to interpret on body language alone. It’s exposition that rewards the audience for being faithful in their attention to the film, but simultaneously one with a simplistic approach that ties together so much pivotal and life-changing information.
– Easy watch. At barely 73 minutes of on-screen storytelling, “Shedding” is as harmless of a watch as you are going to get by 2020 standards. It starts with a pacing that doesn’t have enough time to wear its weight on the minds of its audience, immediately gripping us with characters and situations that are so unorthodox from anything we’re used to in conventional cinema. What follows is a simplistic formula for the transformations and human character introductions that not only expands on the depth of the storytelling, but also keeps the progression of such moving accordingly with the unpredictable nature that the narrative is exerting on us. There was never a moment where I felt bored or tedious from what developed on-screen, mainly because the second half of the movie redefines itself in a way that kept the screenplay pleasantly fresh, and garnered some stakes for the central conflict that kept me invested to see where the climax would take me.
– Loose threads. While most of the rules attained in the film do reach a level of consistent satisfaction, there’s a few questions that I had by film’s end that periodically stretched logic for me. For one, why doesn’t the human cat try to land on his feet when falling from the tree? Why doesn’t he ever run across the street to his home? Sense of direction is one of cat’s best qualities, so it seems like a pretty easy resolution. What is the mom sick with? There’s a bathroom scene that never shows anything, so there’s nothing I can piece together in tying this sickness together. How can this cat-turned-human read and study maps like he has been doing it his whole life? These are just a few of the questions that momentarily bugged me, and made me wish the screenplay took a few more minutes to better flesh out.
– The transformation. This is a bit confusing because I don’t fully understand how or why this takes shape. At first, it seems the transformation happens when the cat falls asleep, which would be fine enough if that was the case every time the transformation takes shape. But then there’s a moment when the human is awake in one frame, and fully conscious, and in the next shot he ends up back in his kitty bed. So is it a bed thing that allows him to transform? Aside from this, the greenish tints given to the dream sequences are a decent touch of creativity to distinguish between dream and reality, but are a bit convoluted and difficult to distinguish if they are just random dream sequences or something bigger leading to the transformation itself. I don’t have a problem with a movie that leaves certain matters ambiguous, I just wish there was some level of clarity as to what kind of transformation we’re dealing with here.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+