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The Breakout Star of ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ Is… a Cat
Paramount Pictures

Could you survive in a world of silence? That’s the question at the center of the Quiet Place franchise, which imagines a world where aliens attracted to sound take over the world. That’s still an essential element of A Quiet Place: Day One, a prequel and the latest entry in the franchise. But this time around, the most important relationship in the film isn’t between family members trying to survive without speaking—it’s between a woman and her cat.

And that cat, with all due respect to the fantastic Oscar-winning Lupita Nyong’o at the center of the film, is the real star of the movie.

That’s a perfect task for director Michael Sarnoski, who understands the bond between animals and man better than most. His terrific debut, Pig, followed a man (Nicolas Cage) on a mission to get his kidnapped truffle pig back. In Day One, Sam (Lupita Nyong’o) has late-stage cancer and lives in a hospice with her therapy cat Frodo (played by cats Nico and Schnitzel).

Being a therapy cat might sound like a joke—I’ve had cats my whole life and while they can be life-changing, being aloof is a consistent quality—but Frodo isn’t like most cats. He’s completely devoted to Sam and walks around the hospice on a leash. He nuzzles in her lap, purring lovingly with her by his side.

I should answer the most pressing question first: Yes, Frodo is staggeringly adorable. He’s got piercing green eyes, a sweet little face, and lovely black spots patterning his white coat. While Messi, the glorious dog from Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, certainly deserved the spotlight as the pet du jour of last year’s film season, it’s time for Nico and Schnitzel to take the crown as everyone’s favorite movie pet.

Joseph Quinn, Lupita Nyong’o, and Frodo the cat.

Gareth Gatrell/Paramount Pictures

I wouldn’t dare come for Messi—that magnificent pup was the talk of the awards season for good reason. His performance in Anatomy of A Fall was show-stopping, especially in a pivotal moment near the film’s climax. But as someone who’s had the joy of having both dogs and cats in their life, there’s a clear difference between the two. Getting a dog’s attention can be as easy as calling their name—cats, however, are a combination of desperate effort and sheer luck. Getting a cat to follow a command is like trying to ace a university exam without studying. It’s technically possible, but I don’t like the odds.

Frodo isn’t just a sweet cat that you see eating dinner and sleeping the day away—though, like Sam, he’s very food motivated. He’s every bit as important to the Day One story as Sam and Eric (Joseph Quinn), another stranded survivor that bonds with Sam, are. He moves the plot forward with each intrepid step he takes through the devastated streets of New York.

Sam doesn’t give commands to Frodo, because he doesn’t need them. When she needs Frodo, he’s there. Once the aliens invade, it throws Sam’s—and everyone else’s—life into chaos. While a dog would likely be terrified of a New York City plunged into abject horror, Nico and Schnitzel walk down the street with the confidence of someone who’s just got a perfect haircut. The dust storms, billowing smoke, rubble, blood, and even the aliens tearing people to shreds don’t seem to exist to them. This allows Frodo to provide Sam more emotional support than she likely ever thought possible; in a time of unfathomable terror, Frodo is there to guide her through it.

Though Frodo is exceptionally advanced for a cat, A Quiet Place: Day One still has a lot of fun tormenting audiences by playing up the feline of it all, tugging our heart strings with the threat of whether or not a cat has nine lives. He’s largely reliable, but Frodo gets himself into several precarious situations. In one, Frodo walks out of reach of Sam in a room that’s being stalked by the aliens, and she has no choice but to run as fast as he can and scoop him up before a creature gets to him first. In another, he climbs so high that Eric nearly dies trying to get to him.

That’s not all; Frodo nearly gets a whole group of survivors killed because he wants to go through a locked door, and he will often scamper too far ahead for comfort to explore. But it’s this acknowledgement that Frodo is very much a cat that makes his character so special, and while he’s often reliable, the little dude can’t resist his instincts, even if they make everyone’s life a little bit harder sometimes.

The mischievousness and unpredictability that fuels Frodo adds so much excitement and intensity to A Quiet Place: Day One, which wouldn’t be as extreme if Sam had a different animal companion. A dog would be too keen to follow instructions; there are millions of memes about cats marching to the beat of their own drum for a reason. Cats have a curiosity that the greatest animal handler can only rein in so far.

Frodo’s passion for chaos is a big reason he’s lovable, but Nico and Schnitzel also nail the emotional moments. After getting briefly separated from Sam, Frodo finds Eric (Joseph Quinn), alone and terrified. Eric and Frodo stare at one another, with Sarnoski’s camera alternating close-ups of their faces. In a film that, by this point, has plunged into madness, this is a moment of remarkable calm as the two look into each other’s eyes. It’s said we often project emotions onto animals, but it really does feel as if Frodo is looking into Eric’s soul, telling him everything’s going to be alright. And Eric, looking at Frodo, finally begins to calm down. It’s a remarkable moment and a microcosm of Frodo’s tremendous presence: In the face of this sweet little cat, there’s an oasis of peace amidst unspeakable horror.

Source: The Daily Beast