VOD Releases: A Streetcat Named Bob (2016) - Reviewed

You know the old saying ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’?  Well it’s absolutely applicable, if not more so, to the cinematic and television medium.  

Judging by the blu-ray coverbox for the recently released British film A Streetcat Named Bob, this looks like a feel good Hallmark Entertainment family friendly hunk of schmaltz.  The actual movie upon putting the disc in the player reveals itself to be the true account of a recovering methadone addict who after hitting rock bottom as a busker and alienating himself from his family before living in the gutter winds up in rehab with one last chance at getting clean and living life anew when a certain stray ginger cat wanders into his life. 

Based upon the autobiography by James Bowen (played by Luke Treadaway from Brothers of the Head), A Streetcat Named Bob tells of Bowen’s journey to redemption after a near lifetime of brushing with death over addiction and the part one little feline played in keeping his spirits up and will to live intact.  It’s not everyday a human life gets a second chance at repairing burned bridges and broken promises through the help of a house pet.  So far I’ve probably made this sound like a Christian financed Disney movie ala Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey as imagined by Kirk Cameron.  I can assure you, however, that A Streetcat Named Bob is not a movie most Disney or so-called ‘family friendly’ studios would ever dare to make.  This is an intervention story with all of it’s ugliness, physical and psychological deterioration in full view yet with guiding spirit who remains the unlikeliest of creatures to guide a broken man close to oblivion towards the light. 

Co-starring Ruta Gedmintas as Bowen’s animal loving neighbor and Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) under the skillful direction of Roger Spottiswoode (The 6th Day; Turner & Hooch), A Streetcat Named Bob while rushing somewhat through the chapters chronicling Bowen’s journey to sobriety manages to convey the struggle, the feelings of guilt and the sense of craving an addict endures on a daily basis.  The film also does a good job expressing the damage done to familial bonds and how caring for an animal in need can fill the gaps and holes in an addict’s life while not forgetting the missing pieces are entirely of the addict’s creating. 

Much of the film, while utilizing many cats including the real Bob with the real Bowen’s oversight, falls under Gedmintas, Froggatt and Treadaway who imbue the drama with emotion and heart without once feeling phoned in.   Froggatt fresh off of Downton Abbey is splendid as the doctor who puts her own reputation on the line to include the “junkie” in her rehabilitation program and Gedmintas, who reportedly is currently dating Treadaway, gives Bowen’s neighbor crossroads with her own myriad of skeletons in the closet not dissimilar from Bowen’s.  When Treadaway dances back and forth from being sober to hurting from the urge to indulge in his addictions, it’s wholly convincing.  I truly believed the man was struggling within based on the desperate and pained expressions on his face, the way his demeanor grew more spastic and how much need you can hear in his voice.

In an age where there are so many intervention films that try to convey what the daily struggle and withdrawal symptoms mean to the very person going through it, it was more than a little surprising to see it told so realistically in what many would misinterpret based on the cover as a feel good family friendly offering.  Not a masterpiece, but a damn pleasant surprise that held my interest and managed to be heartwarming without resorting to phony baloney manipulative techniques or becoming saccharine in the slightest.  Though the most jaded cynics will find things to pick apart with A Streetcat Named Bob, I’m still surprised after watching it just how much depth and honesty there actually is in what should have been just another Hallmark movie.  


- Andrew Kotwicki