Cats are an endless source of public fascination, from infinite YouTube videos to the meteoric rise of Grumpy Cat, moggies are affectionately ingrained in global culture. Felines barking counterparts are the subject of many household films, yet cats are seemingly lagging behind when it comes to cinematic representation, a feat which A Street Cat Named Bob charmingly attempts to correct. Adapted from former busker James Bowen’s bestselling memoir (which spent 76 weeks in the UK’s Top 10 bestseller list, together with 30 language translations) A Street Cat Named Bob is a beguiling and transformative tale of feline friendship.
Haggard recovering heroin addict James (The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time’s Luke Treadaway) is trapped in a destitute cycle of homelessness and meagre vagrancy on the unforgiving streets of a perpetually sodden London. After a circumstantial relapse and near fatal overdose Bowen is given one last chance to turn his life around by his patient support worker, Val (Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt). Relocated to a North London support housing bedsit James settles into a routine methadone program and an increased sense of stability.
Bob arrives on the scene in a suitably characterful style, brazenly stealing cornflakes from a fallen cereal packet knocked over whilst opportunely entering James’ ajar kitchen window. The twosome swiftly become inseparable, busking together around the tourist mecca of Covent Garden, with James belting out melancholic ballads (penned by musician Charlie Fink) whilst Bob elegantly perches on his owner’s shoulder inquisitively eyeing up the curious passing crowds.
Director Roger Spottiswoode is no stranger when it comes to animal focused features having helmed the Tom Hanks detective/dog double act Turner & Hooch way back in 1989. Spottiswoode does a refined juggling act when it comes to highlighting the film’s darker reality of substance abuse, with Bowen’s cold turkey attempt being particularly dour given Bob’s family friendly 12A certificate.
A notable British cast provide the devoted duo with some clichéd heartstring tugging subplots including James’ attempt to reconcile with ashamed middle class dad (Anthony Head) and a promising love interest in the form of next door neighbour Belle (Ruta Gedmintas), a bohemian vegan hippie who just so happens to be a voluntarily veterinary nurse.
Throughout the enriching feature Bob is portrayed by a total of seven tom cats including the original himself who needed a bit of help when it came to stunt work, however this never hampers the flow of the narrative with all other ‘Bob’ shots seamlessly flowing into one. There are even several POV moments involving the ginger rascal which add nothing superficially, but it’s a rather enchanting if unusual gimmick.
A heart felt comedy intertwined with a straight laced morality tale, A Street Cat Named Bob is a soul warming experience that will leave you purring. Another British triumph.
A Street Cat Named Bob is in UK cinemas now.