Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: If Cats Disappeared from the World – sentimental fantasy stars Takeru Sato, Aoi Miyazaki

The central conceit – of a man giving up his treasured possessions for more days of life – has potential, but the treatment is illogical and increasingly frustrating

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016, 8:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016, 8:15am

2.5/5 stars

After learning he has only one day to live, a young man enters into a Faustian pact, bartering his most treasured possessions for more time on earth. Director Akira Nagai employs beautifully unobtrusive CGI to give his fanciful tale a realistic edge, but the tearful adolescent romance at the film’s core always threatens to break out.

It could be argued that the film’s title, and Genki Kawamura’s source novel, qualifies as misrepresentative clickbait, as its feline-free conundrum forms only a small part of the film’s whole. Before worrying about the whereabouts of four-legged friends, Takeru Sato’s 30-year-old postman is deprived of mobile phones, films and even clocks. And this doesn’t apply solely to him; they disappear from the entire world, each earning him an extra 24 hours in the process.

Selected not by our hero but rather his Mephistophelean doppelganger, each item represents the foundation of our hero’s relationship with someone close to him. With their disappearance, there also goes his connection with his ex-girlfriend (Aoi Miyazaki), best mate, father and so on.

While this is a fascinating plot device, narrative logic simply doesn’t follow through. The lack of telephones would have a far greater impact on society than simply two teens never meeting. With each new bargain comes a beautifully crafted disappearance sequence, but so too the story becomes increasingly frustrating.

In other respects, If Cats Disappeared from the World is well crafted, ably performed and even strikes the occasional chord of emotional resonance, but my inner science-fiction nerd was unable to let go of its illogical central conceit.

If Cats Disappeared from the World opens on July 28

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