Loneliness is a Pet

David, a lonely writer, is working on a new novel and seeks inspiration. He is separated from his wife, has no friends, and the only brief human contact he engages in is represented by meetings with his daughter. When she is not around, he conjures up his characters, who follow him around the house and with whom he interacts from time to time. In order to alleviate his loneliness and depression, he takes a rescue cat home, but cannot bond with it. Matters become worse when the cat becomes sick, and his daughter brings him news about her future.

'Loneliness is a Pet' touches upon two main themes: separation from others, and the process of being engrossed in writing fiction. David is excited about the potential of his new project, and writes complex characters with emotional layers aplenty, but finds himself unable to channel his own and focus at least briefly on real life. Even when sharing moments with his daughter, he is still unable to fully separate his thoughts from his writing ideas. His characters shadow him around, and stand by his bed even when he sleeps – and this is just one symptom of the temporary madness which accompanies his writing process. He gives everything for his creation, wants consistency and wishes for things or happenings to remain in their place, even to absurd lengths or contexts. It’s a very interestingly documented character case study, with plenty of intricate details scattered throughout.

The film is nicely shot, well-acted and carefully constructed, both in terms of visuals and audio. It thus complements the thoughtful layout of the narrative, drawing a thin perspective line between reality and dream/imagination. The two layers often blend and are interwoven staying true to the project’s nature. It’s also remarkable that the film manages to steer clear of redundant content or story arcs – it doesn’t feature unnecessary scenes with David’s wife, for instance, nor does it present flashbacks which offer more background information – which is instead smoothed in in other forms. Likewise, it knows how to pace its narrative, and keeps tricks up its sleeve until the very end.

Sure, 'Loneliness is a Pet' might not have the strongest or most engaging start – it paints a portrait that maintains consistency with the title, and that’s about it. However, the more the simple narrative unfolds, the more elements start clicking together and providing an output which is, in the end, greater than the sum of its individual parts. Gagnol Alain’s film is a wonderful achievement, one that feels both evocative and vivid in terms of its theme, and relevant and entertaining in terms of storytelling.

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