By Luke Farnish
As a lover of small budget, feel-good, indie films, I leapt at the ‘chance to see a street cat named Bob’. The film, closely based on the book of the same name, itself a written account of the life of the main character, centres on James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a London busker and recovering heroin addict. He’s given a lucky break when his support worker, Val (Joanne Froggatt, Anna Bates in Downton Abbey) finds him emergency housing. A short time later, James’ life is changed when he has a break in, only to find the trespasser is no thief, but a ginger cat who a neighbour (Ruta Gedmintas) names Bob (played by several cats, but most notably himself). The film then shows how James’ life slowly improves by having Bob around, through highs and lows until ending on the high of publishing the book that the film is based on, with some special guests in the final scenes.
As mentioned, this is my kind of film. The budget was estimated to be around $8,000,000 (or about 1/30th the cost of Star Wars VII) but the relatively low budget does not show. Although, while watching it’s hard to ignore the fact that the cast is small and the use of locations limited, as well as James’ flat being hardly full of expensive props, you can’t help but feel that this sort of film plays to the strengths of the indie genre and avoids having to pay for expensive CGI and other effects.
The casting choices are interesting as, excluding Joanne Froggatt and Anthony Head (who plays James’ father), the major actors are relatively unknown. Despite this, the performances by all involved were compelling and emotive, with Treadaway’s performance being of particular note as all of the songs shown while busking are performed by him. However, all the actors are overshadowed by one debut performance, that of Bob himself. Bob comes across as by far the most deeply thought about and complex character of the film. His curious and loving nature making even the most stone-hearted viewer warm to him. While several cats portray Bob and his antics, the real Bob is among them too – something rarely done with such a film. It’s rare for a film that is ‘based on a true story’ to feel so much like it really is. It’s hard to find any element of the film that does not seem believable even if some parts are obviously slightly edited to improve flow.
There are, as with any film, issues. Pacing is certainly one. The film moves at a relatively even pace which is not very typical for a genre that enjoys taking the viewer on an emotional roller-coaster and that pace is perhaps a little slower than a modern audience might be expecting.
Overall, though, this film ticks all the right boxes for an evening of movie delight. An easy four stars for a film about nine lives.