May 16, 2017


Starring Luke Treadaway, Bob the Cat, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt, Anthony Head, Beth Goodard, Caroline Goodall. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. (2016, 103 min).

I have two cats, neither of whom possess a personality or disposition anyone would make a movie about.

Despite living with us for 12 years, Stinky thinks we're ready to kill her at any given moment. When you pick her up, she howls as though suffering the torments of the damned. Even during the few times a year she actually does want affection, she'll inevitably scratch or bite you once she's had enough. Worst of all, Stinky likes to sneaky-pee in my Dave Cave.

Joesy is a bossy, rotund diva who spends most of the day waiting for her next meal, and if I don't address her needs fast enough - even at four in the morning - she lets me know by howling incessantly and knocking stuff off tables. Then she'll lead the way to the kitchen - gelatinous gut jiggling like a turkey's wattle - squawking nonstop as though on the verge of starvation.

I love my cats, but they aren't remotely like the personable feline in A Street Cat Named Bob, a rather remarkable true story based on the best-selling book by James Bowen, who lived it.

Bob hates it when Bowen plays "Cat Scratch Fever."
Bowen (Luke Treadaway) is a homeless heroin addict making a meager living as a street musician. He desperately wants to kick the habit, and is given a second chance when his caseworker, Val (Joanne Froggatt), sets him up in a tiny apartment, where he can stay as long as he remains clean. Then Bob, a friendly stray ginger cat, shows up. Though barely able to afford taking care of himself, Bowen feeds Bob and uses the last of his cash to treat the animal when it's injured.

The two become inseparable. Bob inspires change in Bowen, giving him purpose and the will to finally try and get clean. Together, they eventually endear themselves to the community, as well as Bowen's neighbor, Betty (Ruta Gedmintas), a young woman still mourning the death of her brother, who died of a heroin overdose.

"Mezz wit me an' I kill yous."
Perhaps I'm a bit biased because I've always been more cat person, but to call A Street Cat Named Bob heartwarming is an understatement. Sure, it's decidedly manipulative and - unless you're a complete cynic or card-carrying cat hater - one can't help but be charmed by Bob (mostly played by the real Bob himself). At the same time, this isn't a sweet, cloying kiddie film where everything is hunky dory. After all, Bowen is a junkie and the story doesn't shy away from depicting the hell of addiction and withdrawl. Not only do we see how it impacted Bowen's life, but also his estranged father's, who has all-but disowned him to start a new family. As Bowen, Treadaway delivers a sincere, dedicated performance. His slow transformation from hopeless junkie to someone who learns to think beyond himself is subtle and convincing.

I have to admit being rendered a bit misty-eyed as the end credits began to roll. This really is a sweet film that doesn't hit you over the head with cuteness. Considering most movies about cats are usually pretty terrible, A Street Cat Named Bob is a cheerful exception, arguably the best of its kind since 1974's Harry and Tonto. And despite some intense moments, it's suitable for family viewing.

I shot a glance over at Joesy, who was holding vigil on the sofa next to me in anticipation of my next visit to the kitchen. I quipped, "Why can't you be more like Bob?" She blinked and gave me a look that said, "I bet your wife thinks the same thing about you when watching Dwayne Johnson movies."
FEATURETTES: "Introducing Bob"; "The Story of A Street Cat Named Bob"

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