You only need to trawl through social media to appreciate our current fascination/obsession with cats. Whether they’re falling off things, fighting, interacting with dogs, or jumping out of their skin at the sight of a cucumber, we’re never tired of what our favourite feline friends get up to. Needless to say, it adds a certain watchability to Roger Spottiswoode’s A Street Cat Named Bob, because at the very least we can indulge in the titular role’s antics. Bob is undoubtedly the best thing about this movie, but that, in all honesty, is not a great reflection of this underwhelming endeavour.
Based entirely on a true story, Bob (playing himself) climbed into the apartment of James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), who had only recently moved in, thanks to the assistance of compassionate support worker Val (Joanne Froggart), providing the once-homeless man a place of his own, while also enlisted on a methadone programme to overcome his heroin addiction. After discovering that Bob is a stray, James decides to keep him, and even takes him out when busking, where Bob becomes something of a crowd-pleaser, perched on the shoulders of his new owner, and bringing in a fair amount of money in the process. It also brings James close to his neighbour Betty (Ruta Gedmintas), truly turning this man’s life around, as he seeks now in winning over his estranged father (Anthony Head).
Given the heartwarming edge to this real-life story, Spottiswoode is tasked with walking the thin line between profundity and mawkishness, and he veers too regularly into the latter, not quite shaking off the overt sentimentality that lingers throughout this production. On a more positive note, it’s refreshing to see this tale told in a short period of time, resisting the urge to dive into the protagonist’s childhood and insert flashbacks. Instead we learn about this character through conversation, allowing us to use our imagination as opposed to being spoon-fed. As a central character, we don’t explore the flaws on James more, as often the more imperfect the character the more we feel we can relate, but everything always seems to be someone else’s fault. Treadaway does the rule justice though, in yet another absorbing display from one of the most talented British actors working today.
Treadaway also shares a strong chemistry with Gedmintas – which is handy, since the pair are in a long-term relationship in real life. He also seems to get on rather well with Bob too, and the scenes between them are sweet and undoubtedly the most engaging within the production. Narratively speaking, a sequel would be a bizarre idea, but here’s hoping this isn’t the last we see of Bob on the big screen.