A Street Cat Named Bob

A Street Cat Named Bob

(2016)

Sometimes it takes nine lives to save one.

British feel-good drama, based on the best selling memoir, about James Bowen - a busker and recovering drug addict who had his life transformed by none other than a stray ginger cat. The cat, Bob, is played in the movie by Bowen's real-life cat, Bob.

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It sounds like a Disney-style pet-hero tale, but A Street Cat Named Bob (2016) is anything but cute. It’s a harrowing and ultimately heart-warming true story of a recovering drug-addict desperately trying to reclaim his life with all the odds stacked against him. Shunned by human society, his saviour is a ginger moggie called Bob.

James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) comes from a broken family and was on drugs for many years. His remarried father does not want him around and friends are scarce on... More the streets where drugs are everywhere and bashings common. Just as he looks like losing his battle with drugs, a sympathetic support worker finds him his own place to live. He ekes out a living by busking, with the coins earnt more for sincerity than talent. One day a hurt cat sneaks into his flat, offering companionship and something to love. Soon the couple are a performing duo with Bob the cat sitting on his shoulder or guitar doing high-fives on cue. The crowds love it, he meets a girl, and a future seems possible. But first he must come off methadone which he is told is like “the worse flu you have ever had multiplied by a hundred”; the withdrawal scenes confirm the prediction.

Being an adaptation of an autobiography imparts a semi-documentary feel to the film that has little depth or tension. The only sign of originality is the moggie. This is not necessarily a criticism, as the film is based on a real life rather than action-driven fiction. It also provides space for the film to take a more light-hearted view on what life is like being down-and-out with a cat. So expect several scenes of busking, chatting to Bob, and the obligatory dog-chases-cat skit. The filming gives special emphasis to Bob’s point of view, with camera’s tucked inside mouse-holes and other moggie-level places that bring a child-like perspective to the story. Treadaway is believable as a permanently dishevelled street survivor but the film’s only interesting personality is his maybe-or-maybe-not girlfriend Betty (Ruta Gedmintas) whose incongruously glamourous presence almost dominates the story. Needless to say, Bob’s acting is superb.

Pet-hero films are a genre that exploit audience’s love of animals and this one mercifully avoids the usual tropes and tricks of the talking-animal narrator. While entertaining, it also offers an idealised version of reality that would be the envy of many who struggle with drug-dependency in a world not even fit for animals. Few homeless street dwellers achieve fame and it is ironic that so much of Jamie’s rehabilitation is credited to a cat. No doubt conservative policy makers who are responsible for alleviating homelessness and funding drug rehabilitation will increasingly turn to cat-shelters for solutions. But it is undoubtedly a feel-good story despite some gritty realism and one that will please enthusiastic cat-lovers everywhere.Hide


A very enjoyable movie that, despite the subject matter, is uplifting and even funny in parts.


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The Press Reviews

  • It's a family film that raises real issues in a sensitive way. And for that it should be praised. Full Review

  • Contains the feline performance of the year, as the ginger tom Bob (playing himself) becomes the unexpected mascot and saviour of a homeless busker. Full Review

  • What is especially honorable about the adaptation is that while it does try to show things literally from Bob's point of view from time to time, it's doesn't over-anthropomorphize him or ascribe to him any mystical or magical powers. Full Review

  • What works on the page seems slight on screen. That's not to say it isn't life-affirming, it's just not quite the cat's pyjamas. Full Review

  • Has its heart in the right place but doesn't quite land on a tone to unite hard hitting drama and a cat-based comedy. Full Review

  • It's not the best film you'll see this holiday season, but this soft, agreeable adaptation of the man-and-his-cat bestseller has its charms. Full Review

  • There's a telly-ish feel to much of A Street Cat Named Bob, an attempt to sanitise life on the streets... But it's impossible to watch a film about a happy-ending story like James and Bob's without a warm glow. Full Review

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