In this biographical story, James Bowen (Australian actor Luke Treadaway) is at the end of his rope. Living homeless on the streets of London, busking for a pittance, and struggling with a heroin addiction, it seems like he’s one needle away from the end – but after meeting a ginger tomcat named Bob (played by Bob), he begins to turn his life around.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film where the audience’s enjoyment hinges on their appreciation of cats as much as this one. If you like cats, you’re probably golden. If you don’t, well… I mean, it’s not like the foundation is entirely cat love, but it’s certainly a major factor. Luckily, it seems that Bob the cat (played by the actual, real life Bob the cat) is up to the task for most people – he’s an interesting, engaging deuterogamist by pure virtue of doing lots of silly, adorable cat things. I’m not even a cat person, really, and I still found Bob lovable, and given this is the story of how a lovable cat gives a three-time-loser a new lease on life, that’s very important. If you don’t love Bob, or feel a general connection with animals, you might find this story a bit hard to swallow, but for those of us who ‘get it’, who understand that sometimes having a little fuzzy companion can make a world of difference, it’s going to make a lot more sense.
So, outside of a cute cat, what else does this film offer? Luke Treadaway’s performance is very good – he brings a believable sense of fragility to a role that really needs you to accept that this is a decent young man who’s down on his luck. Some may find his portrayal of addiction and dysfunction overly sanitised, but I think for a broad appeal, hopeful story like this, going full realism would put many people off. It touches on just enough of the grim elements of life that the overall positive nature of the story feels earned.
Rounding out the cast is Anthony Stewart Head being James’s very British father, Joanne Froggatt as James’ social worker Val, who extends him perhaps a little extra help than he deserves, and Ruta Gedmintas, who despite having a shadow of her own story arc ends up feeling a little undercooked.
I’m mostly used to director Roger Spottiswoode’s mid 90’s action fare (Tomorrow Never Dies, The 6th Day etc), so to see him apply his talents to a simultaneously grim, whimsical story like this was interesting. I also appreciated all the Bob’s-eye-view shots, which helped to generate even more character for Bob.
It seems even in critique, there is no getting away from Bob with this film. If you want a decent, cat-themed feel good story, you could do a lot worse. All hail Bob.
Reviewed by Brendan Whittaker
Rating out of 10: 8