Saturday, 12 November 2016

Review: A Street Cat Named Bob

A Street Cat Named Bob
Cert: 12A / 103 mins / Dir. Roger Spottiswoode / Trailer

Next up, in the category of Films Which Are Marketed Like Kids Films But Which Aren't Really Kids Films Even Though There's Relatively Little Content In The Film To Make It Unsuitable For Kids, is Roger Spottiswoode's A Street Cat Named Bob, adapted from James Bowen's autobiographical book of the same name. It covers James' time as a recovering heroin addict in London, living in a squalid flat where he befriends a remarkable stray cat who inspires him to persevere in turning his life around.

The most awkward aspect of the screen adaptation is that it's nowhere near as dark, bleak or frustrating as you know some of the actual events were at the time. But how could it be, if the film is still going to be an uplifting story of redemption? Scenes where James deals with the authorities as a man who's trying not to slip between the cracks of the system evoke I, Daniel Blake a little. Similarly, a sequence in which he locks himself in his flat to wrench himself off the last dregs of a Methadone program feels like a tidier (and more successful, to be fair) version of the opening minutes of Trainspotting. There are even echoes of Inside Llewyn Davis as the cat quickly becomes a narrative metaphor some something much larger. It's not that the film necessarily sanitises these events, but gives the impression that they're being skipped over a little because of time constraints, which can make them feel more heavy-handed.

Luke Treadaway is marvellous in the pivotal role, supported ably by Joanne Froggatt as his support-worker, Ruta Gedmintas as his neighbour and cat-whisperer, Anthony Head as the estranged and aggrieved father, and of course Bob the cat*1. Although while I'm sure it's biographically accurate, Treadaway's quasi-Australian accent in the film tended to grate as it drifted in some scenes and completely out of others. Worse still, there are some dialogue exchanges with his neighbour where she began to speak with an Aussie-twang while he wasn't at all. Bizarre. By no means a deal-breaker, but you know what I'm like when it comes to accents…

When the story is focusing on anything other than the relationship between James and Bob, it's a bit melodramatic, simplistic and twee. But A Street Cat Named Bob is also everything it needs to be. And as I saw the film on Wednesday 9th November, it even managed to take my mind off the news-events of the day, which really is something*2

Question for those of you who've seen the film: The BBFC-card at the beginning flashed up for a couple of seconds as National Theatre Live's production of A Streetcar Named Desire (cropped in the wrong aspect-ratio) before jump-cutting to the correct card (and presented correctly). As the BBFC information isn't projected from a different reel/file, this appears to be part of the actual final print itself. Does anyone know why/how this has come about?

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Difficult to say as it feels more televisual than cinematic, and I don't watch a lot of telly.
I don't mean that as a criticism, it just has a "TV-cast"

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Only if you're desperate to see the film sooner rather than later; this has got Sunday DVD written all over it ;).

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Probably not, to be fair.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.
Although there was one in an advert for tea which ran before it

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: The film stars Luke Treadaway, who also appeared in Attack The Block alongside John 'FN-2187' Boyega.

If you're having trouble telling the Treadaway Twins apart, by the way, Luke is the one who appears here as a homeless addict trying to rebuild his life and starred here as a kid with Aspergers struggling to cope with the confusing world around him.
His brother Harry does things like Cockneys vs Zombies and The Lone Ranger...

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 There's also a cameo-appearance by James Bowen himself which rivals the face-palming obviousness of The Proclaimers' previous walk-on and would be unforgivable, were it not for the amount of props the guy deserves for still being alive in the first place.
But seriously though, James. Seriously

*2 Although my already anxious mood didn't make the film an easy watch, to the point where I began to suspect ill-motives of characters that weren't headed down that path. Maybe I'm even too cynical and paranoid for feel-good movies at the moment ;)

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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