Over the years we’ve been inundated with films about dogs in lead roles, Digby – the biggest dog in the world, Benji, Beethoven, Snow Dogs, Bolt, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, 101 Dalmations, Hotel for Dogs, Marmaduke, Lassie, AirBud, All Dogs go to Heaven, Cujo…..the list goes on and on and on but when it comes to cats you have to paws for thought (Stop it! – Ed) because basically it’s The Aristocats and the oscar winning tail (Enough! – Ed) Harry & Tonto and both of those were from the early 70’s and were far from purrfect (You’re fired – Ed) Whether this is because they’re a little less loveable because they’re so independent is anyone guess whereas dogs frankly are a bit of a pain needing to be taken for a walk everyday and even then they delight in defecating everywhere so that they can watch their owners scoop it up in a plastic bag, and really who wants to go home with pockets full of dog poo bags especially when you get home and the dog plonks itself beside the fire and in front of guests starts licking its own testicles causing revulsion from women and envy from men wishing they could do the same to themselves.
So at long last we have a film about a street cat named Bob based on the unexpected bestselling book called…um…A streetcat named Bob..by reformed heroin addict and former homeless busker James Bowen. With Christmas on the way it’s a grim reminder especially after the recent release of ‘I, Daniel Blake’ of how precariously close anyone is to being homeless and in this case it’s Bowen (agreeably played by Luke Treadaway) who was in his twenties and busking in London’s Covent Garden for loose change, discarded sandwiches and pitying looks from passer bys in the pouring rain with only a drug addled friend pulling him further into the gutter. He’s given one last chance by his drug intervention worker (Joanne Froggatt) to get on a rehab programme and wean himself off heroin which will entitle him to a flat of his own. And it’s here that he finds himself the victim of a cat burglar….an actual cat burglar…. as a big ginger tom cat gets in through a window. With the old adage that anyone who likes animals can’t be all bad he feeds the cat what little food he has and tries to find the cat’s owner but like him the cat is homeless too. It’s the beginning of an unlikely friendship with Bowen even spending the last of what little money he has on taking the cat to a vet to attend to an injury he’s sustained. It’s probably due to this that the cat knows he’s on to a good thing and becomes his constant companion following him onto a bus into Covent Garden where he busks. The kindness shown to the cat pays dividends as the attentive cats draws the crowds who in turn give him money for his albeit dreadful dirge like songs which at times play like a commentary on his life.
Inevitably like anyone else Bowen’s life is a series of ups and downs and just as he’s getting back on his feet life kicks him down and it’s the cat who remains a constant source of comfort even when he’s going cold turkey (which the cat think is a promise of food rather than a condition).
Set against this is his struggle to reconnect with his father (Anthony Head) who is drawn between his officious and dismissive 2nd wife and the twinge in his conscience that he really should help his son. Add to the mix an almost impossibly beautiful yet slightly flaky neighbour (Ruta Gedmintas) who also names the cat Bob and who has suffered tragedy in her own life but becomes a romantic interest.
Directed by a former Bond film director (Tomorrow never dies) Roger Spottiswoode this is not an obvious choice for someone with such a varied back catalogue of movies which includes Schwarzeneggar’s ‘The 6th Day’, Stallone’s career low ‘Stop or my Mom will shoot’, and yes, thre’s even a dog film ‘Turner and Hooch’. But this is a heart warming film in the end the film is better than the book which is better than Bowen’s songs. Featuring the real life Bob the cat as Bob the cat (helped by a number of other cats too) this is a decent film for cat lovers although the frequent use of POV cat-o-vision shots becomes irritating though this is balanced by the cats endearingly cute purrs and mews but it’s a somewhat rosy view of being homeless. At least it’s a step in right direction to balance the cat/dog films.
Here’s the trailer: