3 out of 5 stars
James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) has been doing it rough on the streets of London. In all of his attempts to rise out of the dark world of homelessness and drug addiction, nothing seems to work out for him. Until his support worker, Val (Joanne Froggatt) sees something special in the young busker who is trying to get off drugs and rebuild his life and have some hope for the future. Besides helping James with his addiction, she manages to find him a flat in the housing projects. While he enjoys being able to get cleaned up in his first warm bath in his new home, a break in occurs. To his surprise and relief, it is merely a stray ginger cat. His introduction to Bob the Cat becomes the catalyst needed to turn from drugs to a life of selflessness and an unexpected world-wide fame.
Based on James Bowen’s autobiographical novel about life with Bob the Cat becomes one of those endearing tales of the human spirit and the inexplicable impact of pets on the hearts of mankind. Director Roger Spottiswoode (Midnight Sun) dips into the real world of addiction and draws out a message of hope for those struggling with a dependance on drugs. He tells the story from a dual perspective which show the harsh realities of living on the streets of London as seen through the eyes of both man and beast. Spottiswoode does not shy away from the extreme highs and lows of James’ life. This exposition of the young busker’s flaws and strengths allows the believable move from a dependance on narcotics to the salvation found in his cat.
It may be difficult for audiences to believe that a film about an addict and his cat can translate to the big screen. The only way for it to work is the lead characters must be convincing enough to draw people into the story. Luke Treadway and Bob the Cat fulfil these requirements and manage to balance everything from the confronting addicts life to the love of a man and his cat. They are assisted by a seasoned director who is able to convey emotions from a feline actor and the fine support cast of Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abby) and Ruta Gedmintas (The Strain). Froggatt plays both sides of the social worker with a heart of gold, providing the compassion that is balanced out with a mother figure in James’ life. The welcomed addition in the storyline was Betty, the whimsical and winsome love interest played masterfully by Gedmintas. Her layered performance as James' salvation figure and her broken hearted history gives the needed light in the dark world of Bowen’s journey out of addiction.
Feline owners know that to love a cat means to love them on their terms. Cats only give what they want to give to the relationship, but when those boundaries are clearly established, it can be magical for both pet and owner. Watching A Street Cat Named Bob is similar. Audiences should arrive with no expectations and relish in what the story has to offer and you will have a purr-fectly (had to do it) magical experience.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
1. Does the Bible have anything to say about addiction? (1 Corinthians 10:13, James 1:12-15, 4:7)
2. Why do we have pets? (Genesis 1:24-25, Pslam 36:5-6, Luke 12:6)
3. Is God a mystery? (Colossians 2:2-3, Ephesians 3:5)