Review: 'A Street Cat Named Bob' is surprisingly educational

Marcus Goh

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 103 minutes (~1.75 hours)

“A Street Cat Named Bob” is a British animal dramedy that’s based on the book of the same name.

A recovering drug addict encounters a street cat who changes his life in ways he never thought possible.

It stars Luke Treadaway (James Bowen), Ruta Gemintas (Betty), Joanne Froggatt (Val), Anthony Head (Nigel Bowen), and Bob the Cat as himself. It is rated PG-13.

“A Street Cat Named Bob” is one of the few rare pet films we have this year. It’s title isn’t that reflective of the movie’s story though — the plot is more about the drug addict’s recovery, rather than the loyalty and helpfulness of a cat. It’s surprisingly educational component lends it to being more of infotainment rather than a dramedy. Regardless, it’s an inspirational story of the bond between man and animal.


A glimpse at the recovery process for former addicts

“A Street Cat Named Bob” is one of the more informative films this year, thanks to its depiction of the life of a former drug addict James (Luke Treadaway). While most portrayals of drug addicts are on a binary scale (either they’re addicted or they’re not), the film shows us the gradual process of recovering from addiction. We learn what it takes to stop being a substance abuser, and the various procedures and steps required. Bob is really just a subplot in James’ story.

Luke Treadaway’s surprisingly engaging performance

James is first introduced as the stereotypical drug addict — a jobless, homeless bum who can barely support himself. As unpleasant as he may seem at first, Luke Treadaway manages to imbue him with a sincerity that slowly manifests itself as positive progress. As more of Luke’s childhood is revealed, we become more sympathetic to his plight, until we fully empathise with him in the climax of the film. His endearment sneaks up on you, much like how his relationship with Bob grows.


Not much of a story

“A Street Cat Named Bob” is a narrative, but it is not a story. Since it’s based on a true story, there’s not much wiggle room for the manipulation of events, save to truncate or focus on certain portions. As a result, it lacks that rising action and structure which regular films have. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not as cathartic as you might expect.

Slow pace

Part of the pacing problem is that the protagonist himself starts out rather aimless, which spills over into the plot itself. There’s little direction since the only objective that James has is to become clean, which requires abstinence rather than pro-active behaviour. A voiceover or sacrificing some pensive scenes for short exposition could have helped increased the pacing of the film.

Lacks the pet feels you’d expect

Bob is a cat, and the issue is that cats aren’t as human-like in their expressions of affection as say, dogs. The cuteness comes more from the editing, music, and James’ reactions rather than Bob’s performance. There’s not much of the pet feels that you’d find in other pet films. The upside is that “A Street Cat Named Bob” doesn’t have the same type of horrifying downer ending that other pet films have either.

“A Street Cat Named Bob” would have worked better as a documentary about drug addicts and cats.

Should you watch this if it’s free? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? If you read the book.

Score: 2.5/5

“A Street Cat Named Bob” opens in cinemas:
– 1 December, 2016 (Singapore)