A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)
Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode | 103 minutes | biography, comedy, drama | Actors: Luke Treadaway, Bob the Cat, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt, Anthony Head, Darren Evans, Tony Jayawardena, Adam Riches, Llewella Gideon, Lorraine Ashbourne, Akbar Kurtha, John Henshaw, Beth Goddard, Ivana Basic
The story of the incredible friendship between the red-haired street cat Bob and the heroin addicted busker James Bowen was responsible for countless YouTube hits and a huge book success. Not only did the story of the meeting, entrusted to the paper by Bowen himself with the help of writer Garry Jenkins, become a bestseller, but a sequel (‘The World According to Bob’), a picture book (‘My name is Bob ‘), in which the cat’s perspective was used, and a Where’s Wally-esque book, where you had to look for Bob in busy prints. This was followed by another Christmas story, ‘A Gift from Bob’, in which James and Bob’s two extremely opposing Christmas parties – 2010 and 2013 – are revealed. The feature film ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ is based on the first two books.
We get to know James (Luke Treadaway) as a musician roaming the London streets. At first you don’t even realize that he is homeless, only when it starts to rain and he can’t get a decent shelter or a hot meal anywhere do you realize how serious his circumstances are. But just like a renovation, James’ situation must get worse before it can get better, because after a hospitalization where he can barely be saved from death, his social worker manages to get him a home. She has a firm belief that James can kick the habit, as long as he’s off the streets. James is overjoyed at this opportunity and the very day he moves into the apartment, in one of London’s poorer neighborhoods, of course, he meets the titular red tom.
‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ follows the usual pattern of similar the hard road to success films, but manages to mix the feel-good factor and the realistic, dark sides of drug addiction well. Despite the high cuddly content that Bob brings to the film, the film is therefore definitely not a family film. The process that James has to go through is tough and ruthlessly portrayed. Knowing the outcome does not detract from the emotional impact those scenes have.
To keep the story interesting at feature length, two fictional, typical feel-good elements have been added to the film: for example, shortly after moving into the apartment, James meets an attractive neighbor, the vegetarian animal friend Betty (Ruta Gedmintas), who helps take care of Bob and for whom he develops romantic feelings throughout the film. However, there’s a good reason why they can’t be together…
He also has a father, with whom he has had no contact for years, and who is ashamed of him, but with whom the ties in this film are of course tightened again. It produces touching and comically awkward scenes. Nice to see Anthony Head in a big production again.
Also special are the occasionally inserted fragments in which we see Bob’s perspective, although that visual trick is used a little too often. The best are the scenes that are based on truth and in which we see how Bob manages to give meaning to his owner’s life. Sentimental? Absolutely, the filmmakers know exactly how to stimulate the tear ducts. But that doesn’t stop you from enjoying this movie.