There seem to be plenty of films that anthropomorphise their animal subjects to a level where they might as well be a human. Obviously, some rules of nature must be bent for animal/human relationships to be expressed in cinema, not forgetting that such films also play well to the purchasing power of younger audiences. But, when you're dealing with the weighty topics of drug addiction and parental neglect, as in A Street Cat Named Bob, a fine line needs be traversed to make the story accessible to a wide audience. Certainly a tricky proposal for the film's marketing execs. Thankfully director Roger Spottiswoode (Turner & Hooch) has dipped his toes into such waters before and comes oh so close to getting the balance right.
Imagine mixing the social realism of Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake), the musical sensibilities of John Carney (Once), and then tampering it down with the family friendly nonsense of David Frankel (Marley and Me), and you'll arrive somewhere near A Street Cat Named Bob. Based on James Bowen's true story and best-selling book of the same name, A Street Cat Named Bob is a simple story that avoids getting bogged down by complexities or subtexts. James (Luke Treadaway), street busker and recovering Heroin addict, is living on the streets of London and is given one last chance by the welfare system to clean up his life. Hindered further by poverty, he is befriended by Bob, a ginger stray cat. James's relationship with Bob provides the perfect talisman for his recovery efforts and also provides the story a fresh take on human/feline relationships.
Luke Treadaway, looking every inch the member of a prog-rock band circa 1975, does a very commendable job of portraying the recovering addict. It's a schtick that we've all seen before on the big screen, but its a solid performance nonetheless. Unfortunately, the supporting cast do not offer the same level of gravitas, succumbing to some fairly cliched moments that suggest a "made for TV" feel. However, there is genuine affection for animals and humanity alike in a film that opted to exclusively wrangle real cats (seven in all, including Bob himself) with its human counterparts rather than going down the path of digital effects - the result is a charming film that makes an admirable attempt at keeping true to its source material.
Rating: 3 stars