On April 1, 1923, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) rejects the invitation of a 2 o’clock trip to the pub from his friend Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell). This afternoon pint is a daily ritual for the best friends. Upon hearing the surprising news, Pádraic’s sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) jokes that “maybe he [Colm] just doesn’t like you no more.” It’s no April Fools prank that Colm has decided he doesn’t like his best friend, however. Colm doesn’t want “aimless chatting” at the pub stealing precious time he feels slipping away in the last decades of his life. In the midst of despair, and deeply committed to his new composition, he is willing to sever a close relationship, and his own fingers, to be alone.

It’s not only loneliness and despair that haunt the people of Inisherin, but the context of this loneliness. The film shows the disintegration of a friendship with no wrongdoing between the two, while also exploring personal values, memory, and grief in the context of non-romantic bonds. Every character we see is not, or is no longer, romantically partnered. The Banshees of Inisherin explores topics not seen often enough in film: What does being alone in this way mean for a person, in a community so small people can’t help but see one another? And what does it mean for how someone is remembered, if they are at all?

Until he gets cut off (sorry for the pun) by Colm, Pádraic was content with his life. We meet someone who is deeply connected to the natural world and happy in his community. Pádraic is sincere, if desperate, in his attempts to salvage the friendship. He doesn’t understand the abrupt change, even when Colm repeatedly voices concerns about the time he senses slipping away from him. Pádraic’s arc becomes more heart-wrenching as every life partner he has leaves or is taken from him. Unlike Colm, he doesn’t choose solitude and creativity but is forced into isolation and anguish. After the end of their friendship, Pádraic’s life suddenly seems out of his control. His sister Siobhán leaves Inisherin in search of a better future. His beloved donkey Jenny tragically dies as a result of the feud between the men. Neighbor and drinking buddy Dominic (Barry Keoghan) drowns in the lake.

Colin Farrell in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

With no one close left to share his daily life with, Pádraic must confront existential questions of loneliness, grief, and despair that he previously laughed off. This forcible loneliness challenges his “niceness.” Ultimately, he does not completely lose his love for others, saving Colm’s dog from the fire. (Notably, Colm never loses his sense of virtue, helping Pádraic up after a beating and throwing a punch to Dominic’s father, an abusive policeman.) We follow Pádraic’s loss of joy and innocence throughout the film, however. Feeling jealous after losing Colm, Pádraic plays a callous prank to drive a student away. When Siobhán, previously Pádraic’s confidant, leaves, he begins lying to her in his letters as a way to reject her invitation to start a better life away from Inisherin. After losing Jenny, he turns to destruction and violence. Pádraic neither sees nor desires a path out of his grief. The loss and isolation have permanently altered his outlook.

This strife between the men ripples out into their community, with consequences for others who must deal with the insular nature of the community in their own ways. Dominic’s struggles with connection, particularly romantic and sexual, prove to be a burden on him throughout the film. Although the nature of his death is technically unknown, his abusive father had shared news of another young man who had ended his life in a lake as grim foreshadowing. Dominic had been rowing with Pádraic over Pádraic’s change in temperament and been romantically rejected by Siobhán. He dies tragically alone, without resolving the fight with his only good friend and without a loving family or partner.

Siobhán, however, is a beacon of hope, intellect, and reason in the film. She opts to forge her own path in search of a more fulfilling life rather than stay. On Inisherin, she is stuck with domestic duties, surrounded by quarreling men and gossiping neighbors. She seems to lack others to deeply connect with and is openly and consistently considered strange for her demeanor and singleness. Following her own interests in literature and history, Siobhán accepts a job to become a librarian away from Inisherin. What she finds away from the island is a better life, and one she invites her brother into. By choosing her own way, Siobhán is the most hopeful character of the film. Seeing the deterioration of the community in the specific context of the civil war between the men, she chooses herself and her future instead.

Kerry Condon in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

Siobhán and Colm both make decisions for themselves that unsettle relationships. It is common to reevaluate priorities in later stages of life and root out distractions, and for Colm, art and legacy become priorities. From the start he is troubled by the feeling he has nothing to show for his life. He feels time pressing on him and seeks the seclusion needed to properly reckon with his own mortality—even if “that’s not very nice.” His desire for peace is not for the sake of it, but to grapple with despair and compose memorable music. He is unbothered by his neighbors’ concern for niceness, which he believes is easily forgotten. Differing perspectives on remembrance are most clearly revealed in a drunken discussion at the pub:

Pádraic: My Mammy, she was nice, I remember her. And my Daddy, he was nice, I remember him. And my sister, she’s nice. I’ll remember her. Forever I’ll remember her.

Colm:  And who else will?

Pádraic: Who else will what?

Colm: Remember Siobhan, and yere niceness? Noone will. In fifty years time, no-one will remember any of us. Yet the music of a man who lived two centuries ago…

Pádraic (CONT’D): I don’t give a feck about Mozart, or Borvoven, or any of them funny name feckers. I’m Pádraic Súilleabháin! And I’m nice!


Pádraic: You used to be nice! Or did you never used to be?

Pádraic (CONT’D): Oh God. Maybe you never used to be.

In this scene Pádraic appears as an open, beating heart of the film. He pleads that niceness is important, and that it does last. The love shared between people is the most important thing. He points to family members he remembers after death. Their memory is kept alive within him, and their goodness will not be forgotten as long as he is around to tell about it. In turn, he may assume he will be remembered by his sister and friends just the same, even if he has no children of his own.

Colm’s anxieties have less to do with generational love than historical importance, however. This may be influenced by a seeming lack of family to remember him for being “nice,” if he would care to be remembered as such. The deep fear that he will be forgotten after he dies may be compounded by not having a sibling, partner, or child to keep his memory alive. Within the context of this specific kind of aloneness, Colm could be remembered not through family but via his compositions acting as gifts to the community of Inisherin and to anyone who may play them. His knowledge—and, by extension, Colm himself—can stay alive through each of his students.

Brendan Gleeson in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

These ongoing threads of legacy and memory come up for me daily as a special collections librarian. The idea that being “nice” is enough can be hard to accept. Leaving a loving impact on your community without necessarily living an exceptional life seems unambitious and dull. And Colm is correct when he points out that Pádraic and his family are not likely to be remembered in 50 years. In fact, most of us likely won’t be remembered in 50 or 100 years. We are not likely to have collections preserved in an archive. At best we may be stumbled across in newspaper clippings, institutional documents, or yearbooks rarely explored by researchers. Even those who reach fame in our time may not be remembered in a century, just as we have forgotten many celebrities of the 1920s.

At the reference desk, I see this difficult reality in the faces of family researchers all the time. People arrive ready to fill in the details of a family member’s life beyond a name from a census record. They will spend hours or days searching through archival boxes, reviewing workplace records, correspondences, and photos looking for any trace of their ancestor. I am tasked with assisting in this work for researchers who cannot visit in-person. Often neither researcher nor I am able to find these details among the aging papers.

Our ancestors may have lived fulfilled lives in communities like Inisherin. Perhaps they got a pint with a friend each day. For so many of us, these details of personality and daily life are lost to time after those with memories of us pass away.  The worry of being more easily forgotten can be significant for those without a partner or children to share daily moments, heirlooms, and traditions. Even if our photos or papers are kept, someone has to view them. We can’t know what they will infer about us if they do.

It may be hard to accept that we likely will not be remembered, just as it is hard for Colm to grapple with it. For those without children or close family, the concern for memory can feel more urgent. We don’t have Pádraic’s certainty that someone will remember us. Perhaps the most we, or anyone, can hope for is that those who we have loved and had meaningful relationships with will remember that, and that it is enough.

Pádraic’s acceptance of being remembered by loved ones seems to be a healthy and realistic outlook, but this is challenged when those people leave him. In the end, too, Colm knows he cannot control whether people will like his music enough to play it in 50 years, but he has created a piece of music he is proud of as a gift for those willing to listen. The film expresses that much is out of our control, from how people respond to our decisions to whether we’ll be remembered. It also serves as a reminder of the one thing we can strive for: being in right relationship with one another. Part of that means being honest and vulnerable with others and ourselves. It is a difficult lesson learned by the film’s end.

Jon Kenny, Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, and Pat Shortt in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.


CASSIA is a New York-based special collections librarian. She studied American history and religion and the arts, including film, in her hometown of Nashville. When she’s not in the reading room, you can find her chatting with neighbors at the coffee shop, listening to Sufjan Stevens, or at the movies.



Screen shot from Sean Baker's Starlet, wide shot of a young woman and an old woman sitting on a picnic table


EDITOR’S NOTE: In case you didn’t catch the byline, this is a guest post! Please enjoy this piece from a writer whose work I am thrilled to feature (because I love reading her work elsewhere): Veronica Phillips.


For Starlet’s twenty-something year old protagonist Jane (Dree Hemingway), conventional understandings of intimacy regarding sex, love, friendship, and connection certainly exist and matter, but they are altered by both her line of work and the general sense of loneliness that comes from the early stages of learning to live as an individual and an adult. Notions of traditional value systems of monogamy, nuclear families, socially-approved-of work, and creating a home are not what currently center Jane’s life (nor does she seem to long for them). Instead, Jane lives in Los Angeles, a city notorious for its almost built-in loneliness, in a shitty apartment with some friends – a young couple named Melissa (Stella Maeve) and Mikey (James Ransome). Jane looks like she’s been pulled directly out of a 2012 American Apparel ad. She’s bleach-blonde, dressed in tiny plain tees and short-shorts, often paired with those thigh high, striped tube socks that were so en vogue in the early 2010s. She spends a lot of her day smoking weed and hanging out, always with her tiny, precious rescue dog, Starlet, in tow. Jane has a mother who she claims is hooked on oxys and presumably lives where Jane used to live, in Jacksonville, Florida; while Jane tries to coax her mother to come visit her, Jane’s mother seems generally disinterested in their relationship.

Perhaps the most distinct contrast in Jane’s life regarding love, sex, and intimacy, however, stems from her line of work. For much of Starlet, we are not told what Jane does for a living, but depending on how versed one may be in the porn industry and the fact that one of its major hubs is in the San Fernando Valley, some may catch on faster than others. About forty-five minutes into the film, Jane arrives at a shoot, and we get a definitive and explicit explanation of her work. She and porn superstar Manuel Ferrera have non-simulated oral and penetrative sex on camera (with Hemingway being body-doubled by adult film actress Zoe Voss for the shots of non-simulated sex, a common Google search regarding the film). 

I preface with this description of Jane’s life and work not because I find Starlet’s presentation of sex work and porn to be its most interesting aspect, nor to critique its representation in the film. There is a sort of matter-of-fact neutrality regarding the porn industry in Starlet, described succinctly in Roger Ebert’s review as a “strictly-for-business,” “mechanical” process. 

Instead, I preface with this description simply because it encapsulates the way that intimacy as we would conventionally conceive of it, especially in forcing strict, morally-coded value systems upon certain kinds of romantic and sexual relationships, is not and cannot be a concern for Jane because of her job in the sex industry. She has friends, she has moments of closeness, but she also admits (in a rather nonchalant, unbothered way), that romance is not as much of an option because of her line of work. She spends a fair amount of time alone, driving around or sleeping in the small, barren room for which she pays $1,200 a month.

For Starlet’s eighty-something year old Sadie (Besedka Johnson), intimacy has been long removed from her life. Her husband, Frank, has been dead for decades, she gave up her driver’s license when she decided she was officially “too old” to have it, and her one recreational activity is Bingo on the weekends. Otherwise, she sits at home, or has a taxi cab drive her to the grocery store or Frank’s headstone. 

Jane and Sadie’s relationship begins over an old, ornate Thermos that Sadie is selling in a yard sale. After buying it, Jane discovers that the Thermos is stuffed with cash, about ten thousand dollars worth. At first she does what I assume many of us would — getting her nails done, buying some new clothes and a special, bedazzled harness for her dog — but her conscience begins to weigh on her quickly. After a failed attempt to return the money, Jane begins orchestrating meet-cutes and run-ins with Sadie in hopes of accumulating enough acts of kindness that she can no longer feel guilty about the matter.

From the moment they meet, the two women are in conflict, bickering over how Jane is going to use the Thermos (she insists it’ll work as a vase, which deeply offends Sadie’s by-the-book mentality). Their basic understandings of relationships clash. Jane fails to respect Sadie’s repeated requests to be left alone, insisting on driving Sadie home from the grocery store and showing up to her weekly Bingo sessions to sit next to her. Sadie is unfairly suspicious of Jane, certain that she is being “scammed” by the younger woman. 

And yet, in spite of this constant bickering, this push-and-pull, once Jane and Sadie have met, they simply cannot seem to detangle from each other’s orbits. As Jane continues to insist on helping, and Sadie consistently, yet begrudgingly, needs help, the early reasons for these acts of kindness become blurred. 


Screen shot from Sean Baker's Starlet, medium shot of an old woman and a young woman doing a craft together


In fact, soon after meeting, Jane and Sadie begin hanging out just because they want to. Jane wants to see Sadie, waking up at 7:30 AM for breakfast with her, rushing to get out of her make-up from a shoot to pick Sadie up from the grocery store, aggressively defending Sadie against some insurance providers. And Sadie, at first blunt and seemingly disinterested in Jane’s attentions, begins telling Jane about her past, buying Starlet treats at the store, and asking Jane about her love life. Gradually, the two stop resisting the strangeness of the situation, and start genuinely loving each other. Their relationship blossoms during little dates to the dog park, on drives to errands, on a trip to the place where Sadie’s husband proposed to her. Jane and Sadie, in their private worlds where love and intimacy work differently than the average person, develop, in an unexpected and delightful sense, into each other’s soulmates. 

Jane provides Sadie with someone to connect with without having to change who she is, while Jane, on the other hand, is provided a relationship outside of her somewhat tumultuous living situation and the transactional nature of her work. And while we never know for certain if Sadie knows what Jane does, one gets the sense that she wouldn’t really care. It doesn’t affect the basic tenets of their relationship – that of simple, authentic time together. 

Perhaps the most endearing part of Jane and Sadie’s relationship, however, is that they remain unchanged by each other. They are soulmates because of their differences, because of their endless bickering, because of the way they do not feel pushed to share every aspect of their personal lives with one another. The two never stop having little arguments. Sadie doesn’t stop being crotchety, and Jane doesn’t stop being young and idealistic. Their gestures of love are a heartwarming part of their growing affections for one another, but their soulmate-ness comes from their willingness to just let the other be. Neither one makes drastic changes to herself to become more palatable to the other. The bickering and the messiness and the difference is welcome, and it’s what makes their connection so strong. 

Their various reciprocal loving gestures eventually culminate with Jane spending the remainder of Sadie’s found money on a luxury trip to Paris for the two of them, hoping to fulfill one of Sadie’s lifelong dreams. Right before they leave, Melanie — stung by the fact that she was denied the acts of care that Jane is showering on some presumably random old woman — drives to Sadie’s house to tell her the truth: that Jane has been spending time with Sadie out of guilt for stealing the money.

But Sadie is unbothered by this revelation. In fact, this attempt at destroying Sadie and Jane’s love is what brings their soulmate-ness to its most tangible, solidified form. In the final moments of the film, Sadie asks Jane to stop at the cemetery on the way to the airport to drop flowers off for her husband, Frank. This is one of their regular errands, but this time, Sadie asks for Jane to go up to Frank’s headstone instead of her. 

In the warm, golden Los Angeles sunshine, Jane stares down at not one, but two headstones; Sadie did not just lose a husband, but lost a teenage daughter. Jane looks up, overcome, and locks eyes with Sadie studying her from the car. They gaze at each other in silence, like lovers finally seeing each other, or like daughter seeing full, complicated mother. And yet, they are  like neither of these things, because Jane and Sadie’s love holds a magic that goes beyond the romantic and the maternal. It’s something beyond blood or want, it just is. In Sadie’s vulnerability, in her revealing of this loss, she gives Jane everything – forgiveness, full and total acceptance, and a revelation of an indescribably painful loss. She trusts Jane with all of this. The money could not be more irrelevant to her. Jane is well worth losing that ten thousand dollars, just like giving that money back to Sadie in the form of a dream trip is well worth it to Jane. 

Jane walks back to the car and looks outward at the world, her life shifted. She opens the door to get in, and Starlet ends. Jane and Sadie understand intimacy differently than the average person — but I think we all do. What’s an average person’s version of intimacy? Is there such a thing? Starlet invites us to open ourselves up to the opportunity of true love taking on forms beyond the limited ways we are asked to picture love and life and connection. 

We don’t see Jane and Sadie pull off into the sunset. We don’t hear what is said or isn’t said after this revelation. We don’t need to see those things. We know that Jane and Sadie are meant to be together, we know that they will see and hear each other in a way that no one one else sees or hears. They will continue being exactly what they are, and being loved unconditionally by each other for it.


Screen shot from Starlet, medium shot through a car window of a young woman, a dog in beret, and an old woman


VERONICA PHILLIPS is a film and television writer located in Los Angeles, California. She writes freelance as well as being a regular contributor to Film Daze and her own personal newsletter “but how can i make this about me?” She’s extremely susceptible to crying at, fixating upon, and tweeting about movies ad nauseum. 

screenshot from Cats (2019)


EDITOR’S NOTE: In case you didn’t catch the byline, this is the very first guest post published on Delayed Responses! Please enjoy this piece from the biggest Cats enthusiast I know, Gina Elbert.


Move over, Die Hard: there’s a new controversial Christmas movie in town. That’s right, I bring to you: Cats (2019).

Not your first guess? Well, that might be a mistake. Tom Hooper’s seminal film Cats was released on December 20, 2019, on the same day as The Rise of Skywalker, which some might argue was a worse movie.* Opening against  the ninth and final Star Wars film was a choice, and announcing a near-immediate re-release on opening day was also a choice. But perhaps the greatest choice of all lay in the marketing of this movie as a Christmas film. 

For those uninitiated into the cult of Cats, it’s a live-action film adaptation of the eponymous 1981 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which itself is based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot. It follows a group of strays called Jellicle cats who compete in front of an ancient, God-like cat named Old Deuteronomy (in the film version, played by Judi Dench) for rebirth via a trip to the Heaviside Layer. The cats include such notable names as Bustopher Jones (James Corden), Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson), the outcast Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), and the highlight of my life, Skimbleshanks (Steven McRae). Each one sings a song about themselves to prove their worth – though in the stage musical, it’s usually another cat singing about them – while the villainous Macavity (Idris Elba) lurks in the background and tries to give the show any further inkling of plot.** To be transparent, it’s not a film that mentions Christmas even once. So why are we here at all?

The trailers for the film featured the taglines, “This Christmas, many will compete; only one can win,” and “You’re invited to the most joyful event of the holiday season.” They’ve each got very different vibes, neither of which I can say is entirely justified, and they’re both in the same trailer. Discussion of the first tagline in a Discord server with some friends led to a vehement argument on the definition of “compete,” while the second is true, but not in a way that the filmmakers intended. Well, alright, I can only guess as to what Tom Hooper was thinking, but I derived my joy more from the inexplicable absurdity of the film’s execution and my personal cinematic experience than from the conceit itself (other than the songs of Skimbleshanks and Mr. Mistoffelees, which are true bops). 

There is one intriguing tagline, though, that didn’t make it to the trailers. One March night in Scotland, two of my friends walked into Tesco and were thrilled to come across a bottle of Cats-branded champagne from Piper Heidsieck. Yes, the very same Piper Heidsieck parodied as Pi-purr Heidsieck in the background of “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats.” It was a decent bottle of champagne, but its appearance in a grocery store three whole months after the film’s release says quite a lot about the film’s mainstream popularity, or lack thereof. The box bore the words, “This Christmas, you will believe.”

My friend joked it was a threat. I have only questions: believe in what? Why Christmas? Why this very generic holiday film tagline? Is Cats actually supposed to be a Christmas movie?

To answer this question, we must first take a look at Christmas movies generally. I’m no expert, but I’ve seen my fair share, from classics like It’s a Wonderful Life to Netflix originals like the Princess Switch and Christmas Prince trilogies. Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square was almost the topic of this essay; it continues to perplex me. An inexhaustive list of common tropes in movies like these would contain: a romantic storyline, manifestations of magic, at least one musical scene or montage, themes of all kinds of love and family, and someone refusing to believe in the power of Christmas just to be proven wrong. Santa is pretty important, but at the very least we expect a wise, magical elderly person to point the way to good choices. Christian (but not necessarily exclusively so) morality is a strong throughline and a falling-down-the-chimney gag would not go amiss. 

Let’s break these down one by one. Most of the film is sung, so the musical element is a no-brainer. The cats do flirt and nuzzle quite a lot, though there is never any kissing despite some moments where you really think it’s going to happen. Hooper even heterosex-ified Mister Mistofelees, a character often considered gay by Cats musical fans, so that he could pair with Victoria, the white cat who is new to the community and who operates as an audience stand-in. There is a certain romance to Victoria discovering and falling in love with the community of Jellicle Cats, which she sings about in “Beautiful Ghosts.”

The Jellicle Cats are a family, and family is key to Christmas movies. This particular group has all of the wacky uncles, troublemaking cousins, and boomer grandparents you could want. At its head is Old Deuteronomy, who acts as a spiritual father (in the original musical, Old Deuteronomy is male) and therefore wise elder to the rest of the cats. The family defines itself in its exclusion of Macavity, his crony Bombalurina, and Grizabella. Grizabella’s story in particular is interesting because of her deep remorse for having once helped Macavity and her eventual redemption and re-acceptance into the family thanks to Victoria’s encouragement. The Jellicle Cats learn compassion because of her and compassion is a key Chirstian moral. 



Finally, the movie involves magic, not just in its conceit but also in Macavity’s use of it for disappearing his competitors. It’s the sort of powdery, sparkly cloud that appears in many a holiday movie. Macavity could even be our Scrooge/Grinch-like character, if you squint hard enough. The mystical London of this universe, with its nebulous time period, bafflingly cat-themed but human-sized businesses, and abandoned buildings built on prime real estate echoes the perfect little Christmas villages of Hallmark movies in its festive implausibility. 

The biggest giveaway for a Christmas movie is that it actually mentions Christmas, which I will admit Cats doesn’t do. But it does involve questions of faith and spiritual ascendance in its fashioning of the story around the trip to the Heaviside Layer, a real layer in the atmosphere that I generally assume to be a stand-in for Heaven (but who can tell, with T.S. Eliot?). No, Heaven doesn’t generally involve rebirth as far as I know, but it’s still an interesting element. We have only to look at the Star Wars Holiday Special to see that popular media invents secular, Christmas-inspired holidays all the time. The ball and subsequent ascension in Cats definitely comes under the heading of holiday for their participants. Just because there is no clear name for the day doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Cats joins the ranks of many past holiday movies that aren’t strictly about the holidays. Mary Poppins is often played on TV in the UK during the holiday season, but it’s not a Christmas movie either. The library where I work lists The Sound of Music as a film perfect for the season, too. Actually, a lot of movie musicals are released during the Christmas season. They’re not explicitly festive, but they are marketed similarly to the way in which Cats was. I imagine this is because families need something to do while the kids are on vacation, so why not take them to an all-ages movie that everyone can enjoy? This works with some musical films released during the Christmas season, like Mary Poppins Returns and Into the Woods; less so with titles like Les Misérables (also a Tom Hooper production!), West Side Story, and of course Cats



Cats is a very sensual, often confusing movie. A kid might miss a lot of the innuendo, sure, but it’s not overall something that anyone would immediately peg as a family film even without that. Almost every professional review of the movie found it erotic, perhaps disturbingly so, and it’s hard to deny that Old Deuteronomy spreading her legs for Gus the Theater Cat in delight over his performance or the cats’ tails going suddenly rigid while dancing at the ball sets off horny alarm bells.*** The IMDb parents’ guide for the film lists “moderate” sex (though the real meat of that page is where “James Corden” is listed under “Frightening & Intense Scenes”). Speaking of James Corden: he appears in many children’s films, which often have star-studded casts, but there’s little in this movie that actually calls to kids. The colors are fairly muted, all of the characters are adults (besides Jennyanydot’s mice), there isn’t much action outside the dancing and the one fight scene on the barge, and there isn’t a clear plot arc to follow. Kids are often into very surprising things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the movie’s marketing made sense either. 

Cats was released exactly two years ago to this day, just before Christmas, and in combination with its vaguely Christmas-like story and its marketing, I do question how much of its Christmassy-nature was manufactured paratextually. I probably wouldn’t be asking these questions at all if the movie came out in, say, October. However, the two times I saw the film in theaters – on opening night, then about a week after the re-release – were some of the best times I’ve ever spent at a cinema. The pure shock of the cat in the sky in the opening shot, the exhilaration of “Skimbleshanks,” the communal joy of singing along to “Mister Mistoffelees,” and the horror of Judy Dench breaking the fourth wall in “The Ad-dressing of Cats” were such wonderful, unadulterated emotions. I attended both showings with friends as enthusiastic as I was in the tiny, mostly-empty theater in my hometown that has sadly closed down permanently due to the pandemic.**** I can only imagine the other movie-goers, like the mom and her son who asked if we minded if they ate Chinese food behind us, were bewildered by how much fun we had. To me, that’s what a Christmas movie is all about – the kind of love and longing that it can stir up inside of you. Those are feelings worth celebrating, especially now. I could what-if myself into oblivion about the filmmakers’ choices, but I will never escape the fact that, in this timeline, Cats is a Christmas movie.


GINA ELBERT is a writer and children’s librarian in Westchester County, NY. A friend of Leah’s from Pratt, Gina loves to do crosswords, journal, and fawn over cats (the animals and the film) in her free time.

*My friend and I saw Cats on the night of the 19th in an early showing and saw Rise of Skywalker the next afternoon. We’re both fans of Star Wars, yet had infinitely more fun at Cats. That’s a discussion for another day.

**Okay, that’s a bit harsh – you don’t always need plot to tell a good story! And I would argue that the stage show version of Cats works without one. The movie occupies a liminal space between plot and no plot because of its attempt at creating a mainstream narrative structure, which makes things… interesting. 

***That said, the dancing in the film is very good from a technical standpoint, at least to my eyes.

****Since publishing, there’s been some good news! The theater looks like it will be revived after all.