This film by Scottish animators Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson could have been a simple story about Anderson’s mother being diagnosed with mouth cancer and his process of accepting her illness. However, it begins with Anderson in front of the camera confessing to his mother (who thankfully recovered) that after five years of intermittent work, the film feels like a failure. « It’s all a bit of a mess, » he admits, his voice trembling with emotion. Anderson decides to show his mother some of the work he has been doing. As a result, the film transforms into a raw documentary with glimpses of originality and insightful reflections on the medium itself.
At the time his mother receives the diagnosis – « it’s the C-word » – Anderson is experiencing a pivotal moment in his professional career. The low-budget animations he creates with Henderson are generating a lot of buzz in the industry. We see a clip of his mother laughing along to one of them: a hand-drawn seagull talking about eating a « Glasgow salad » (essentially, chips). Around the same time his mother falls ill, Anderson creates Dom (voiced by Tobias Feltus), a melancholic black cat with a rotund belly that resides in the corner of his laptop screen, dispensing nagging home truths. « You’re a coward, » he tells Anderson. « You hide behind your work. You don’t spend any time with your family. »
A more polished film would have neatly packaged this into an uplifting narrative about a family uniting in the face of adversity. However, I get the impression that Anderson is somewhat introspective; he picks at the documentary he failed to create like one would pick at a scab. He appears uncomfortable with the artificiality of it all, showcasing how they recreated real-life scenes for the camera. These meta moments make « A Cat Called Dom » a formally intriguing film, but also contribute to its unfinished quality and the sense that it is grasping for meaning.