Entertainment, Review

Books to Film: A Street Cat Named Bob

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In 2011, James Bowen was a desperate homeless man struggling with a drug addiction. By 2012, he was a bestselling author, all because of his friendship with a ginger cat named Bob.

By Joanna Shaw

Many people will have read the story of A Street Cat Named Bob, or would have at least seen the dynamic duo on their many TV appearances after Bowen’s new found fame. Now the series of three books has been turned into a film, and readers and cat lovers will not be disappointed.

The story is of James, a man trying to tackle his demons in order to live a normal life. He is given a second chance when he moves into sheltered accommodation, where he must deal with drug dealers outside his door every night. One day, he finds an injured cat, and the magical relationship between man and feline begins.

Between them, James and Bob make the perfect double act. As James moves through London, busking to earn a living, Bob willingly sits on his shoulders or cosies up on a rucksack while James plays. It was this cat’s affectionate, quirky behaviour that captured London’s attention, and won people’s hearts all over the world.

In comparison to the book, there are a few minimal changes. However, the story flows well. It was clear that James Bowen had a lot of say on set, as his story is transferred to film accurately. Obviously, the star of the show is Bob, who plays himself in the film (with the help of a few stand ins.) The gorgeous ginger tom with piercing green eyes will have any cat owner hooked into the story. In a sense, you forget that Bob is a cat, and you merely see him as an additional character who is helping a man recover.

There are many laugh out loud moments. Any fan of funny cat videos will love the scene in which Bob attempts to pat a laptop screensaver, or the many expressions that a cat can display; he certainly isn’t a fan of the vet. One interesting thing to note is the camera work; in some scenes, the camera is angled as if the audience are seeing things through Bob’s eyes. This adds an extra element to the heart warming story.

This story, however, is not made up completely of elating friendships and triumphs. The film manages to accurately balance the humour with the horror of drugs. The opening scene quickly depicts how hard it can be for addicts, and makes the audience realise that the homeless people they see on the street could one day be them, due to unpredictable, uncontrollable circumstances. Bowen’s message within the book and his role behind the scenes is clear: the homeless need our help. According to the charity Crisis, within their study this year, they have recorded around 275,000 cases of homelessness. The problem is especially difficult with young people, with nine out of ten English councils trying to find help for people aged 25-34.

In the book, the descriptions of James’s withdrawal from heroin are heart breaking. In an attempt to get himself clean, he must lock himself in his flat, and suffer severe physical and mental issues when coming off methadone. The film portrays this well, and Luke Treadaway, the actor playing James, really manages to convince the audience of his suffering and agitation, with faithful Bob always by his side.

It is safe to say that the film adaptation of A Street Cat Named Bob is perfect. It teaches the audience to value family, friendships, and of course, their furry companions.

If you are interested in donating to any of the charities that James and Bob support, visit the Big Issue, Bob’s World Cafe Fundraiser and Shelter.

About the author / 

Joanna Shaw

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