This was a film I was genuinely looking forward to, the main reason being that I really loved the true story the film is based on, which is almost hard to avoid considering the amount of appearances James Bowen and Bob have made on daytime shows like This Morning, BBC Breakfast and all sorts of others. The film, based on the book has been in development for some time. It is directed by Roger Spottiswoode who hasn’t directed too many films you may have heard of, but he is certainly a long time director, his only major credit as a director being the Bond film ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, which, if I am honest is only an average Bond film. He also directed the Arnold Schwarzenegger film ‘The 6th Day’ which was basically Schwarzenegger trying to recapture the magic of Total Recall. The screenplay itself has been written by the team of Tim John and Maria Nation, both of whom have mostly worked on TV scripts, though the latter has written a lot of TV movies. With the film having rather an interesting creative team behind it, to say the least, it is also aided by the fact that Bob himself actually was the cat used for the final product, something that was never planned from the start, but ended up proving so well during the brief filming that was done, that they decided to stick with it. It is also coming out at time where British Films, I think, are on a bit of a decline. Let’s face it, there’s normally a few good British films every year, but this year has been a bit barren. I’m trying to think of great British films I have seen this year, and the only one that is coming to mind is “I Daniel Blake”, which I did a mini review on in my review of Dr Strange. I was really, really hoping that this would be the one that would break that cycle, because I think the British Film Industry is really good when it is at its best. They can be really nice charming films with good staying power and before anyone mentions half of the films that could be considered, remember, I reviewed Swallow and Amazons and didn’t like it, I also mini reviewed The Girl with all the Gifts which I felt was ruined by its ending. So let’s move one and ask if “A Street Cat Named Bob” lives up to its extraordinary true story.
A Street Cat Named Bob is the true story of James Bowen (played by Luke Treadaway), a homeless drug addict who is put on emergency housing programme to help him get clean. His life is turned around, however, when a stray cat named Bob, (playing himself) breaks into his house, hungry. After he gets injured James gives his last £20 getting his anti-biotics and decides to take care of him. However, one day, he follows him on the bus and decides to take him with him busking, which ends up proving his ability to make money and they become a hit sensation on the streets of the West End of London. The rest of the film is James’s trials of trying to reconnect with his father’s side of the family (his father played by Anthony Head) as well as get clean. I think the trailers did a good job of selling this film, being a bit too heavy with elements towards the end of the film, but that was hardly avoidable considering how much of a broadcasted story this is, especially on British Television. However, I don’t believe the posters and the TV advertising have sold the film that well. I was in the very first screening on the opening day at the Liverpool Odeon and I was rather puzzled to find there were a lot more younger children in the audience than I was expecting and I will go into a bit more detail on my thoughts on that a bit later on in the review. The big question I have to ask myself though is what are my thoughts on A Street Cat Named Bob? My biggest thought is, this film is going to struggle to find an audience. It tries to be both cheesy and a heart-warming true story, but it also tries to be a bit of a hard hitting drama, so any one going in for the fun ride will be rather taken aback and people looking for the latter won’t appreciate a lot of the cheesier moments. It’s weird though, that’s precisely the reason I liked it. I thought it hit the perfect balance between the two. OK, this film was never going to show the explicit side to drug addiction, you would never be able to show that and get a 12a rating, but I was surprised by how far it went with it , which I fear parents may have a problem with their kids seeing this film for that reason. Parents may also be shocked because the posters and the afore-mentioned TV advertising does not really show a lot of this side of the film. It’s kind of obvious to anyone who is half aware of the story, but it still doesn’t change that factor. That being said, however, I thought they did an excellent job portraying drug addiction and what it takes to get yourself out of that environment and the support necessary in order to get clean. James, really does manage a massive turnaround of his life because of Bob and the film makers go to great lengths to tell the story well, and not without pulling their punches.
There are some rather dark scenes towards the beginning and the end of the film, again, people expecting a cheesy film might be rather taken aback by this. However, I think it’s really good, for that reason and I think it will be a good anti-drug message to kids. I’ve certainly seen worse drug public service announcements (or PSA’s when abbreviated) out there. I’m certainly more comfortable with kids watching this than I am with them watching Trolls! Don’t expect too many more digs about that movie for the rest of year, I only have about 4 or 5 more reviews before my best and worst of lists. Anyone going for a cheesy drama, you are going to love it, it’s rather clichéd, but let’s face it, it was always going to be like that this is a very heavily over dramatized version of this guy’s life. That was always going to be the case. I may not have read the actual book that the film is based on, however, I am rather aware of some of the changes made and I don’t believe they affect the story in too negative a way. I think a lot of people forget that a true story doesn’t have to be 100% accurate, it just has to tell the story and tell it well and be respectful to the actual true life events. That’s the only reason I get mad, when a film like Patch Adams tells a heavily fictionalised version of the story, making a lot of changes to the actual events that happened because in that instance the film was being very disrespectful to the man it was based on and the true story. This, however, is very respectful to James and Bob’s story. I really liked a lot of the moments in this film, it has some good writing, some good pacing and it feels like it earns a lot of its best moments. I ironically thought there was really good chemistry between Bob and Luke Treadaway in this film, which is what really sold it and I take my hats off to the crew because it must have taken a lot of training to get Bob that trusting of Luke and that is coming from someone who has got a Degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare.
There are a couple of issues I have with the story though, overall, there are no major faults that I can think of, but there are a couple of nit pics, for example, I liked the relationship between James and his support worker Val (played by Joanne Froggatt) but I wasn’t too engaged with the romance sub plot with Elsie (who is played by Ruth Sheen). I think it’s down to 2 factors, the first being, Elsie’s character is the sort of person I wouldn’t get along with if I actually met her in real life (that’s a personal gripe from my end) and I also felt that they could have added this character without them having romantic feelings for one another, it does feel quite intrusive, though at least she has a purpose in the plot which is why I didn’t find it too upsetting. The story also feels incredibly believable. Many of these moments feel like they could actually happen, aided by the location shots which I will go into later on down the line. What I like as well is it felt completely uncynical, this film could easily have been a major cash grab especially if it was made quite quickly after the book’s had been out. The 4 year gap between the books release and the film has aided the film greatly. I feel like, if audiences give it a go, they will have an enjoyable film, however, I feel that people will go in and not get the film they were expecting, but it is still a nice lovely story about a man and his cat and I think it will play very well at Christmas, so expect to see this one on your Television schedules in 2017. It’s just a nice story about a man and his friendship with a cat and I really enjoyed it.
As for the performances, they are all brilliant as well. Luke Treadaway plays an excellent drug addict and a man desperate to be clean, and as I mentioned earlier, he has great chemistry with the cat and his fellow cast members. Treadaway had a few bumps in the past, he was in the awful remake of Clash of The Titans but I did enjoy his performance in Attack The Block and this year has really made me a fan of him. In the space of a week, I saw 2 films that he appeared in and he delivered great performances in both, we will go into that 2nd film in my mini reviews. Treadaway is really an actor you should be looking out for though and I really would not object to him getting a BAFTA nomination on the back of this film because he gave a very good performance. Bob the cat is great as you would expect and having the actual Bob in the film helps the authenticity of it, let’s face it, it would have been very difficult to get a cat this well trained to do these tricks and it was clearly great at saving the production staff a lot of time and money because it would have not been too difficult to recondition Bob into doing half of his tricks with Luke Treadaway. Joanne Froggatt also gives an excellent performance and I really enjoyed her in this film and I may have a problem with Ruth Sheen’s character but at least she played it well and she got a decent character arc to work with. One of the surprise brilliant performances was Anthony Head who, since I haven’t seen him in a lot of films recently, I forgot just how good an actor he is and if you are not sure who I am on about, he played the principal in Buffy and he was the Prime Minister in Little Britain, but I think again between those and his rather regrettable brief appearance in Ghost Rider 2 I think we’ve forgotten how good a dramatic actor he can be.
Now for the cinematography. I think the cinematography is really, really good in this film and it would have been rather difficult considering the majority of the film is clearly not shot on sets and was done on location shoots in London, particularly in Covent Garden, though I am glad they decided to go with location shots because it really makes the whole thing feel like an authentic experience. I was finding myself recognising a lot of the places since whenever I am in London I tend to go to Covent Garden whenever possible since it’s really near the cinemas I visit for my reviews. There are also a lot of shots from the cat’s perspective and they vary in their quality. Some of the times they feel a bit unnecessary and they are nowhere near as good as say, the first hand perspective of the kid in Room, however, I do appreciate the attempt made. I would say, the issue is, however, the cat noises have clearly been dubbed in after the fact and they often can feel quite intrusive because it’s obvious the cat isn’t actually making a noise, but that’s only a minor nit pic. I was also amazed that for a film shot almost entirely on location in London there were very few product placements. The only major product placements in the film are the Big Issue Magazine and Waterstones and I appreciated the restraint, especially considering that it would have been easy to get a ton of product placements in the filming of London, but if they had done, it would have been incredibly distracting.
Are there any other negatives I can think of? Yes, there are a couple, there are a couple of scenes where I felt Bob was added for no good reason and his presence in one or two scenes felt a little intrusive, however, on the whole, this really didn’t bother me. I really liked A Street Cat Named Bob, it’s a good feel good film that I would like to put on every so often. It’s a good balance of cheese with hard hitting drama which means it will appeal to a large audience and it’s a very interesting portrayal of drug addiction and people trying to get clean and I think if you don’t go in aware that there are going to be some hard hitting scenes of drug addiction and homelessness you are going to be rather shocked by the film. However, I had a really good time seeing this film. It’s not breaking any new grounds and it’s not a master work of film making, but it’s just a really good story of one man and his cat, I recommend it.
“So that’s all the films I saw this week. What are your thoughts, please leave a comment if you have an opinion on any of the films I have mentioned, I would love to know what you think?”
As for the next review, this is a little earlier than I expected. Come back on 17th November which as you would expect if you regularly follow my reviews, I am going on Holiday so we are going to be having a little hiatus. I have been told this film is one to watch out for at the next Oscars. I am going Sci-Fi and will be reviewing “Arrival”
Thanks a lot for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it and now I am going to try and train my cat to sit on my shoulder while I play the guitar!!
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