By Mark Saldana

Rating 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Among the few SXSW 2020 narrative features available for streaming now, this European import makes for an interesting, though not thoroughly satisfying, watch. Writers/directors Vezela Kazakova and Mina Milena hope to shed much light upon the Bulgarian immigration experience in London while presenting and critiquing the political and xenophobic climate. Though both filmmakers show proficiency when it comes to the visualization of real life scenarios, the lack of a more focused script takes much away from the overall impact.

Irina Atanasova stars as single mother Irina. She, her brother Vladimir (Angel Genov), and her young child Jojo (Orlin Asenov) have emigrated from Bulgaria to the U.K. seeking more employment opportunities and an overall better life. Though things are better in London, than they are back home, both Irina and Vladimir work very hard and struggle to make ends meet. In addition to their money troubles, the Bulgarian family slowly falls victim to the changes occurring in both their neighborhood and in their new country. And to make things even more stressful, strained relations with some of their neighbors reveal a prevalence of racism.

Though I found some moments of the film compelling, charming, and disturbing, I feel that Kazakova and Milena’s movie is a bit too chaotic and all over the place. The filmmakers use a cinema verite style that actually works well at times, while it dulls the intended effects in others. The actors perform mostly well throughout the movie, but the writing and lack of tighter direction often take away from their performances. The overall result is a mixed bag of monotony with some dramatic crescendos sprinkled throughout.

I will say that I did connect with the Irina character and identified with some of her troubles and that is the main reason I felt compelled to see this movie through to the end. Ultimately, I was disappointed as a whole and wanted more from it. I cannot strongly recommend this movie as a must-see selection, but if one still feels compelled to watch it, go to Amazon and do a search for the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection where Cat in the Wall will remain available for streaming until May 7, 2020.

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