Film recommendation: Rent-A-Cat (2007)20 March 2017 - Inspiration
“Feeling lonely? I’ll lend you a cat,” chants Sayoko (Mikako Ichikawa), the young woman at the centre of Japanese writer-director Naoko Ogigami’s comedy-drama, Rent-A-Cat (レンタネコ).
Every day, Sayoko walks along the city river pulling a cart full of cats, waiting for a lonely person to come along to rent a cat. The premise of the film is light-hearted and humorous—cats, according to Sayoko and the renters she meets, are the cure for loneliness.
Ogigami’s films have been classified as iyashi-kei eiga, or ‘films that provide emotional healing’. As the film moves along in Ogigami’s signature unhurried and gentle pace, we see why. With all its humour and quirkiness, Rent-A-Cat reveals itself to be a wonderfully tender take on what it means to live in the present and the necessity of human connections.
Here are our favourite takeaways from the film:
1. Life has a way of surprising us. The only way to fully enjoy its unexpected rewards is to be present.
While the cats provide Sayoko with comfort and joy, she yearns for more. She tapes several goals onto her wall, such as 'Find a husband' and 'Go to Hawaii'.
Like Sayoko, we often set rather specific goals in life. There are many benefits in doing so, but when we allow ourselves to pursue those goals in a rigid manner, we lose sight of what the everyday offers. Life has a way of surprising us with the way we get to our goals, and the form in which our goals take. Enjoying the journey—including the unexpected turns it takes—may allow us to find what we really need, just as Sayoko does.
As Sayoko rents cats to various people hoping to relieve their loneliness with a furry companion, her unexpected connections with the renters (and at the end of the film, a long-lost childhood friend) assuages her own loneliness. While she doesn’t expect to form those connections, she gradually learns to embrace them. By focusing more on the present rather than the expectations that come with her goals, she doesn’t find what she set out to, but what she needs.
2. Courage and effort are needed to form connections.
Being present in each moment allows Sayoko to form unexpected connections with the cat renters she meets. What we learn, however, is that a healthy amount of effort, courage and optimism are also needed to form connections. As natural as connections should and can be, and as seemingly obvious as it is that effort is needed, it can sometimes be the most difficult thing to do.
There is always the fear of rejection, the distractions of daily life or the ease with which we stick to our comfort zones. In one scene, Sayoko visits a car rental shop and meets Yoshikawa (Maho Yamada), the lady who works there alone. Yoshikawa has been working there for many years and is tired of the monotony of her job but hasn’t found the courage to quit. She is also lonely from the lack of company.
At one point, she tentatively asks if Sayoko would like to eat donuts with her—something she usually does alone. Through that tiny but brave gesture, she finds company and comfort in Sayoko’s presence as they eat together.
The short but moving scene is a great reminder that courage comes in all forms, and that small and steady steps are sometimes all we really need.
3. Loneliness is part of the human condition.
Through the course of the film, Sayoko meets various cat renters, all of whom have physical and metaphorical ‘holes’ in their lives. A middle-aged man living away from his family because of his job has a hole in his sock and a huge sense of emptiness in his heart. A young lady working at a car rental shop eats ring-shaped donuts alone.
In a fast-paced city like where Rent-A-Cat takes place, loneliness is like a fever—common, uncomfortable and invisible. In our moments of loneliness and sadness, it is easy to forget that we aren’t the only ones feeling that way. It is also easy to forget that the fellow human beings around us are more similar than different to us.
Being aware of this is important because it allows us to comfortably acknowledge this feeling to ourselves and others, to find the compassion and empathy within ourselves to reach out to others, and to take comfort in the fact that it is part of the human condition. How we choose to perceive it or what we do about it are what will ultimately create meaning in our lives.
4. Who are we kidding? The cats are the best part.
If you’re a cat lover (or someone on the fence about cats), look no further—this film was made for you.
Do you have any film recommendations for us, or films that you’d like us to review? Let us know at email@example.com.
- The Mindful Company Team
Photo credit to Otherwhere.