A STREET CAT NAMED BOB (UK/12A/103mins)
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. Starring Luke Treadaway, Anthony Head, Bob the Cat, Joanne Froggatt, Ruth Gedmintas
THE PLOT: James (Luke Treadaway) is homeless and struggling to overcome drug addiction. Busking on the streets for money, James’s luck begins to change when he is awarded emergency housing. On his first night in his new home, James gets an unexpected visitor; a ginger cat. When the cat won’t leave James and Bob – as the cat comes to be named – become fast friends, even busking together, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones.
THE VERDICT: ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ is based on the true story of James Bowen, and the book of the same name. The tagline “Sometimes it takes nine lives to save one” is a little on the trite side, but there is a warmth and sweetness to ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’, as well as one of the best feline performances of the year.
Luke Treadaway leads the cast as James, and makes the character one that the audience roots for. Full of dignity and hope for the future, James struggles to get his life together, but Treadaway makes sure that the character remains sweet and gentle. The relationship between Bob – playing himself for most of the film – is lovely and warm, with Bob becoming therapist, friend and companion to James. Ruta Gedmintas plays Belle, new neighbour of James, and the one who decides what Bob’s name is. Gedmintas obviously has fun with her quirky vegan warrior character, and the friendship between Belle and James is charming. There is a hint of a love story at times, but this is wisely scrapped in favour of allowing the characters to flourish on their own. The rest of the cast features Anthony Stewart Head, Joanne Froggatt, Beth Goddard and Darren Evans.
Screenwriters Tim John and Maria Nation adapted James Bowen and Garry Jenkins’s book for the big screen, and they play up the relationship between feline and human. The times when James speaks to Bob feel as though he is talking to a friend, rather than an animal, and it is this that not only makes the film work, but creates much of its charm. There are times when the film errs on the side of twee and saccharine sweet, but there is enough real drama in the film to make up for this.
Director Roger Spottiswoode paces the film evenly, and makes each character likeable, even the ones who create adversity in James and Bob’s lives are shown in a sympathetic light, which makes for interesting watching in a film where the lead character is a recovering drug addict. Bob is rightfully the focus of the film, and he easily steals the show and adds warmth and heart to the story.
In all, ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ is a gentle, sweet and warm story that struggles through some twee and saccharine sweet moments. The film recovers, however, due to a strong cast and the best kitty performance on screen since ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    A Street Cat Named Bob isn’t quite the cuddly family movie it outwardly appears as. It’s rooted more in a darker story of redemption through the unlikeliest of friends.

    A true story, it follows London busker James Bowen (Luke Treadaway). He’s a former drug addict who is trying to change his life. He’s going through treatment to make sure he doesn’t go back, but the road to recovery is going to be very difficult. The temptations to go back to drugs are there, but the death of a friend from an overdose shakes him up to the reality that he might be next. James’ father Nigel (Anthony Head) is ashamed of him and turns him down for Christmas dinner. One night, an intruder enters his home – a friendly one in the form of stray ginger cat Bob (playing himself). Initially, James looks after him until he can find his real owner. But the two of them stick together and Bob becomes part of his act perched on his shoulders, drawing in the crowds in Covent Garden. He also strikes up a close friendship with Belle (Ruta Gedmintas), a voluntary pet carer who is allergic to cats…

    Based on the best-selling ghost-written book by Bowen, A Street Cat Named Bob is an interesting choice for Roger Spottiswoode, the Canadian director of Tomorrow Never Dies and Turner & Hooch. The latter might have played some part here. Never work with children or animals as the film business saying goes, but he works well with both here.

    This is an earnest film that doesn’t try too hard to impress or deliver any life-changing messages. Instead, it has a simple, direct message about redemption and the healing power of companionship. That’s something that everyone can relate to. It’s only through others that we realise how much we stand to lose through making bad, sometimes fatal choices. Bowen wasn’t very good at looking after himself but by looking after Bob, he was brought back from the brink.

    Treadaway gives a good performance here. Looking dishevelled and a bit shifty, he manages to make James a good man but a lost soul who strayed from the path and hopes to find a way back. Although a number of cats were used in the film, Bob appeared for the large part as himself. He’s quite a character, but he’s also a centre of calm. Gedmintas and Head provide good support too – even when being judgmental. Spottiswoode’s direction is competent and is mostly free of cloying sentiment. A Street Cat Named Bob isn’t going to win any BAFTAs, but it’s a pleasant film full of hope and the will for people to change for the better. ***