A STREET CAT NAMED BOB
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Screenwriters: Tim John, Maria Nation based on the eponymous novel by James Bowen and Gary Jenkins
Bob the Cat
Runtime: 103 mins
Australian release date: 9 February 2017
Previewed at: Dendy Newtown, Sydney on 1 February 2107
A Street Cat Named Bob has been given a PG rating in Australia so there’s no excuse for this real-life drama not to be compulsory viewing for young people susceptible to the lure of heroin, whether it be in a city in the Land of Oz or, as in this case, in London. Based on a true story, Roger Spottiswoode’s feature is a real charmer, despite its tough setting.
When recovering heroin addict James (Luke Treadaway) meets a ginger tomcat (the real Bob plus other look-alikes) on the street they buddy up for mutual support. A busker, James is desperately trying to kick his habit with the positive assistance of his case manager Val (Joanne Froggatt); he’s on the methadone program and manages to get assisted accommodation and a job selling The Big Issue. Into the picture comes beautiful neighbour Betty (Ruta Gedmintas), who’s very hippy but not trippy (her brother’s another victim of drugs), and James appears to be getting his life back on track at last but, of course, the story doesn’t end there. Kicking addiction is no easy ride; as Mark Twain once said, habit can’t be thrown out the window, it has to be coaxed down the stairs.
In these 103 minutes of desperate yet life-affirming reality, Peter Wunstorf’s camera takes us on the number 38 bus through the streets of London, busking with James in Covent Garden while exposing the terrible reality of homelessness and addiction. A Street Cat Named Bob is one of the better films dealing with drug dependence and it delivers a positive message of hope and recovery. Bob excels himself and should get double billing with Treadaway. Look out for the scene where he’s sitting by the coin case while James is busking; every time someone drops a donation the cat looks up and nods, as if to say thank you. His reaction is simply adorable and, pardon me, puuuuuuurfect. Little wonder the real-life James and Bob became internet celebrities, attracting a London literary agent, which led to a book that sat on the top of The Sunday Times’ best seller list for 76 weeks.