This is a true story, a heartwarming story and one that frankly, I wish had a bigger audience because it was so well executed, performance-wise. A Street Cat Named Bob, which takes place in London, is the true story of James Bowen (played by Luke Treadaway), a 20-something homeless heroin addict and street singer. After getting into a program to help him become drug-free, he is set up in a flat and is about to begin putting his life back together. On his first night in his new home, he is startled awake, thinking it’s a burglar. Instead, it’s a friendly, but injured stray orange cat (actually played in most scenes by the real Bob) that came in through his window. He tries to find who Bob’s owner may be with no luck and Bob returns to Mr. Bowen every time he tries to give Bob his freedom. Very quickly, Mr. Bowen and the cat bond. Mr. Bowen’s kind neighbor, the vehemently anti-drug Betty (played by Mr. Treadaway’s real-life partner, Ruta Gedmintas) helps Mr. Bowen take the cat to a vet for care and it’s there the story takes off, as Mr. Bowen and Bob become inseparable.
There are a lot of emotional ups-and-downs in this movie; Mr. Treadway does a convincing job as he portrays Mr. Bowen weaning himself off methadone; the aggravations caused by others while he tries to scratch out enough of a living to feed Bob and himself; his relationship with his father and his fear of being found out by Betty that he is an addict – all of this keeps the story from becoming cutesy and cloying and saccharine sweet. At the same time, you can’t help but be drawn into the emotions; Mr. Bowen’s character is truly a sympathetic one. You root for him; you take he and Bob to heart and you hope he succeeds – with recovery, with his family, with Betty – with life. And you cannot help but be touched by the very obvious love Mr. Bowen has for Bob and Bob has for him.
I was genuinely moved by this movie, which doesn’t happen very often. And I found the performances to be natural and powerful. This is something I would consider showing to my kids (if I had kids) as a very good life lesson – because it contains so much – from the obvious “this is what happens if you do drugs” to the “this is what can happen if you believe in yourself and work hard”. And as a cat lover/owner, notwithstanding, Bob is quite a fine little actor himself!
At a moment when things are not very positive and watching news is now beyond critical mass on the “sensory overload” scale, a movie like this may help in soothing the chronic heaviness. And it may give you some hope.
A Street Cat Named Bob can be seen via On Demand through most cable providers
P.S. The photo above is the real James and Bob!