By: Jo Siedlecka
Many people living in north London will have seen the busker James Bowen, and his exceptional cat Bob - regulars by the Angel, Islington, Covent Garden and other locations. Their story - which became a best-seller - is told in this heartwarming film directed by Roger Spottiswoode.
A recovering drug addict, with a difficult family background, James, played beautifully by Luke Treadaway, is living on the streets as the film opens. After his support worker gets him some accommodation, he struggles to get by, busking for small change from tourists and receiving his regular dose of methadone from the pharmacy. One day he hears the sound of an intruder in the flat and finds a ginger cat eating his cornflakes. To begin with James tries to find the animal's owner with no luck. Bob - that's his name - keeps coming back and James realises he has an infected wound. On the advice of his neighbour Betty, (Ruta Gedmintas) James takes him to the animal hospital - spending all his earnings on the medicines. Next morning when he gets on the bus to go into town - Bob hops on too and sits beside him. From that point they are firm friends.
There are some brutal scenes in which James decides to give up methadone and goes through cold turkey - with support from Betty and Bob. Busking with a ginger cat that can do high fives really pulls in the crowds. One day reporter Peter Gruner from the Islington Tribune, writes a feature about them - and soon James is commissioned to write his own story - which goes on to became a best seller. James is now a full time writer and campaigns for homeless charities.
Two excellent films this year have really focussed on poverty in modern Britain. Ken Loach's tragic I Daniel Blake explores the horrors of the benefit system - while A Street Cat Named Bob - though much lighter, shows the grim realities of homelessness and addiction. In London alone, around 8,000 people sleep rough on the streets each year - camping down alongside some of the richest real estate in the world. The life expectancy of a homeless person in the UK is 47.
See a trailer here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=s13Fnj8LzD8