A Street Cat Named Bob
Luke Treadaway, Bob the Cat
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Based on the popular memoir, this heartwarming drama about addiction manages to land on its feet.
A movie that plays on one of Tennessee Williams’ most notable pieces is gutsy. A Streetcat Named Bob, directed by Roger Spottiswoode (Children of the Silk Road, Tomorrow Never Dies, Turner & Hooch) is about a recovering drug addict and busker with one last shot to redeem himself. Based on the bestselling memoir of the same name by James Bowen, the film was released to much ado in its native UK (even the Duchess of Cambridge checked it out), and now sees a limited release in Australia.
Part cat-video, part gritty drama about the perseverance of addiction recovery on the streets, the film highlights the need for companionship in the face of isolation and invisibility. Luke Treadway (Unbroken) is the jumpy but determined junkie who takes in a cat off the streets after nearly overdosing. Bob (played by the actual Bob the Cat) is a feline who helps his new owner to navigate the brutal streets of London’s Covent Garden that has no place or patience for street musicians. With a cat on his shoulder, crowds bustle to the duo, having decided that cute animals are apparently worth their time and money.
The film does not end there. James must convince his social worker Val (Joanne Froggatt) that he is ready to go cold turkey, while his furry companion looks on in the background during painful purges and withdrawals. Temptation surrounds him: the drug dealing corridors of his emergency accommodation, right through to the trap of falling in love with trendy vegan neighbour Betty. Betty might just be the human interaction that James craves (no offence, Bob), but his emotional immaturity and her disapproval of “users” could set him into relapse.
Bob is cute and charming, and his ginger hue is a pleasant tone to the bleak palette of a cold London winter. He is also surprisingly loyal, given that his species is predisposed to nightly neighbourhood prowls. Merging a buddy film with a serious message about the prevalence of homeless and how it is stigmatised does feel jarring, despite however many times the audience will coo at the cat’s cheeky food stealing antics. Imagine the current, topical protests against the police evicting homeless people from Flinders Street station, and now add a pet to the mix.
Director Roger Spottiswoode has delivered a heartwarming piece that scratches away at the layers of judgement and ostracisation of addicts. Perhaps the cat does carry the movie at times, but the ending does land on its own feet.