There are hundreds of Big Issue North and Big Issue vendors, past and present, who have inspiring, heart-wrenching stories to tell. Who have battled drug addiction and overcome terrible experiences such as child abuse, life-destroying breakups or military conflicts that have left them mentally scared. None of them, however, have a cute cat named Bob and that’s why you’ll rarely see their lives depicted positively in a mainstream movie.
James Bowen manages to escape the streets with the help of his drugs worker and starts on a methadone programme to get him off heroin. And then Bob moves in, a stray ginger tom. Bowen saves the cat’s life by giving him a place to stay and helping him recover from an infection. In return Bob saves Bowen’s life, by giving him something to care about. And through his appearances with Bowen as he sells a certain well-known magazine on the streets of London, the cat makes him a media sensation that spawns a best-selling book and now this movie.
Luke Treadaway plays Bowen, strangely managing to say fairly fit, healthy and handsome despite his years on the street and his battle with heroin addiction. There are some glimpses of the harsh realities of life on the streets here, but this is essentially a film about a cat and the star of the film is Bob, who apparently plays himself in much of the film. We even see the world through his eyes with some cleaver camera trickery.
Of course it would be churlish to expect this to be anything more than a sentimental Kleenex-fest and any film that puts homelessness at the centre of a story, especially when its on the rise again, can be no bad thing. But it says something about the society we live in that many people will leave the cinema having watched this heavily sentimental movie with tears in their eyes, sidestepping rough sleepers who they simply don’t see, because they haven’t got a cute pet with them.