MOVIE REVIEW: A STREETCAT NAMED BOB
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Starring Luke Treadaway, Bob the Cat, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt, Anthony Head
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Those familiar with James Bowen’s best-selling memoir already know that this tale of a homeless, recovering junkie, is a lot more ‘feel good’ than such a thing has any right to be.
James – played authentically by Luke Treadaway – is living rough on the streets of London and trying to scrape together food money from busking with his beat-up guitar, but is more often than not ignored or abused by those passing by. Scavenging from bins and trying to resist the urge to shoot up, James has no-one to fall back on – not even his Dad (Anthony Head) who is under the thumb of his new wife and too nervous to let James back into his life despite his best efforts.
His sincerity strikes a chord with social worker Val (Joanne Froggatt), who finds an emergency flat for him, and although the Covent Garden pedestrians are no kinder to him, at least James has a roof over his head.
Hearing someone break in to his flat, James fights panic as he goes to confront the intruder, only to find a ginger tomcat named Bob nabbing his cereal. James tries to find Bob’s owner, but no-one claims him, and in the process James meets Betty, the sister of a dead junkie staying in the same block of flats.
Before he knows it, James is taking Bob to Covent Garden to busk, the cat often perched on his shoulders or standing on his guitar whilst he plays, and the novelty of this creates not only an interested crowd, but a decent income for the duo for a short while.
It seems like Bob has appeared to save James, in a way, but bad luck plagues their journey – every road must be tested – and after a six-month busking ban, James starts selling The Big Issue, again with Bob in tow. Again trouble strikes, but James – with Bob’s help – resists the urge to use again, and kicks the methodone program when Val agrees he is ready.
It’s a heartwarming story – but also a gut wrenchingly sad one. James is trying his hardest to rehabilitate, but seeing the disdain with which he and other homeless people, or recovering addicts are treated is confronting. Doubly so when we realise we have all been guilty of doing so at one time or another.
Starring the actual Bob, given lots of opportunity to show his character and personality by director Roger Spottiswoode, A Streetcat Named Bob highlights the transformative power of music and animals in as emotional and endearing a fashion as Red Dog did – though be warned, the drug-related scenes here are harrowing and this is no movie for children, even young teens.
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