A Street Cat Named Bob

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Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A Street Cat Named Bob
"The film is anchored by solid performances from its two leads and a good supporting turn from Ruta Gedmintas."

Ever since he burst onto the screen in 2006 with Brothers Of The Head, Luke Treadaway has stood out as an unusual talent. Now, ten years later, he finally gets a leading role worthy of his abilities. The catch? He's playing second fiddle to a cat.

This isn't quite as absurd a situation as it might sound. That cat is Bob, a savvy ginger tom whose fame on social media easily rivals what his co-star has achieved on the silver screen. Starring in his own story, he also reveals a talent for acting. He's naturally expressive and connects well with those around him, but as well as the more serious stuff he is obliged to run through a number of YouTube-style cute kitty skits, so internet cat fans will not be disappointed. Director Roger Spottiswoode knows where his natural audience lies.

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Cute cats are perhaps one of the few ways to successfully draw in a mainstream audience for a film about homelessness, poverty and drug addiction. It certainly worked for the book of the same name, since followed by two sequels, on which the film is based. Author James Bowen's story, as viewers will easily guess, is a triumphant one, but not without some serious struggles along the way. Though the film presents a rather gentle, family-friendly version of what life is like for the underclass, there's a handful of very bleak moments and Spottiswoode is not afraid to make his audience uncomfortable by challenging people about their prejudices. This is balanced by the hero's endlessly forgiving nature - a bit unreasonably generous, perhaps, but then reason isn't always the best tool with which to survive such experiences.

The story, for those not already familiar with it, focuses on the relationship between recovering drug addict James and Bob, the cat who adopts him and makes him a star. Never mind the familiar phenomenon of dogs on strings - it turns out that cats on shoelaces are busking gold. They're also good at charming women. Thanks to Bob and the the experience of being responsible for somebody who cares about him, James finds a reason to try toget sober and take control of his life. Spottiswoode quietly highlights the hopelessness and dearth of support that keep many addicts trapped, whilst focusing on the positive story of a man determined to build a future for himself against the odds.

Although it's longer than it needs to be and a little too indulgent in places, the film is anchored by solid performances from its two leads and a good supporting turn from Ruta Gedmintas as their neighbour and romantic interest. It's interesting as a film about London that offers a different perspective by getting down to street level, away from most of the tourist trappings, but doesn't milk the city's grim side either. In fact, we get down to street level literally at times as several shots are framed from Bob's perspective - again, catering to the YouTube crowd.

In sum, this is a feelgood film whose feline star proves every bit as charming on the big screen as he is on the small one, and his fans will love it. Beyond this, however, it struggles to find direction, so its ability to win over new fans may prove limited.

Reviewed on: 04 Nov 2016
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A Street Cat Named Bob packshot
The story of a busker and recovering drug addict whose life was transformed by a stray cat.
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Director: Roger Spottiswoode

Writer: Tim John, Maria Nation, based on the book by James Bowen, Garry Jenkins,

Starring: Bob, Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt, Anthony Head, Beth Goddard, Darren Evans, Caroline Goodall, Ruth Sheen, Nina Wadia, Franc Ashman, Ivana Basic, Lorraine Ashbourne, Mark Behan, Daniel Fearn

Year: 2016

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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