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Direct by: Roger Spottiswoode
Starring: Luke Treadaway, Joanne Froggatt, Ruta Gedmintas, Anthony Head and Bob the Cat
I first became aware of James and Bob during a trip to London a few year ago. James was playing the guitar whiles Bob was just chilling out in the guitar case. The two things that struck me were the large crowd they attracted and the attention people were giving Bob. I suppose we all take notice of the animal first before we look at the owner, right?
I chucked a pound coin in the case and thought nothing much of them. It wasn’t until a few months later when I came across the book A Street Cat named Bob in my local branch of WH Smiths. I was interested in their story. I wanted to know what it was that brought them together, and what it was that drew such a large crowd that day in Neal Street. I bought it and spent the rest of the day reading it. I instantly became a fan and have bought every book that James has wrote.
What I loved about the story was James’ honesty. He admits he’s done wrong. He stole from supermarkets, he was a heavy drug user, he’s let his family down. Finding Bob has given him a second chance at life. If it wasn’t for Bob none of this would have happened.
I got to meet James and Bob in 2014 at a book signing at the Metro Centre in Gateshead. The sight of seeing a man walking with a cat on his shoulders was something else. During the meeting, James announced plans for a new book (which turned out to be Bob to the Rescue) and that the script for the film was in development. Fast forward to present day and the film is finally released out in cinemas.
Recovering heroin addict James Bowen (Treadaway) is trying to turn his life around after living on the streets of London for so long. Busking is his only way of bringing in an income and even that isn’t enough to make ends meet. After moving into sheltered accommodation, James meets a ginger tom cat (Bob) who breaks into his flat. After giving the cat food and milk he sets him off on his way. The next day, after another day of busking, James crosses paths with the cat again, only this time the cat is injured. With the help of his neighbor Belle (Gedmintas), James nurses the cat, now called Bob, back to health. James can’t afford to keep Bob so he intends on letting him go back on the streets but Bob has other ideas.
This is a film that I’ve anticipated for a long time. Is it any good? Absolutely. I’m not ashamed to admit that this is a real tear-jerker of a movie.
The film mixes parts of A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob together and it all blends together well. When you’re going to make a film based on a book parts of the story are going got be chopped out. That obviously happens here and I do believe that there were some parts from the books that should have been included. Perhaps some of those scenes will be included in the DVD extras. Who knows? The most notable exclusion from the film is James’ relationship with his mother. It’s mentioned that she lives in Australia (which is true) but they leave it at that. They could have had a scene where James is talking to her over Skype. They should have touched upon this subject more because I felt it was one of the key moments in the first book.
I also had no idea that the original Bob was going to star as himself. James had said in an interview that Bob would only make a cameo since he was too old, so it was a nice surprise to see Bob playing himself. There were moments in the film where audience members all went ‘awwww’ in unison. And yes, James does make a cameo.
As for Luke Treadaway, he was first class in my opinion. You’ve got to remember that James Bowen is a broken guy. He’s socially awkward, an outsider, an outcast, a down and out. He’s a confused guy who knows his future is bleak and Treadaway portrays all those emotions perfectly. You really feel his pain when he’s trying to come off the methadone. That was a perfectly executed scene.
I loved the characters and I thought the execution of the story was perfectly done. The only gripe I have is the ‘Bob Cam’ where we see things through Bob’s eyes. First person mode, or in this case first cat mode, isn’t really my thing. Aside from that I was overall very happy with the film.
It’s just crazy to think how different the lives of James and Bob have become since they crossed paths. Both of whom met at a time when they were both rock bottom and together they’ve managed to pull themselves through it all.
It’s the ultimate story about defining the odds and that it is possible to find hope in a hopeless place.
A Street Cat Named Bob is essential viewing.
Rating: **** ½ (Champion)