Roger Spottiswoode’s slight but warmhearted A Street Cat Named Bob ekes uplift out of melodrama. Based on a true story, the film follows recovering addict James (Luke Treadaway), who finds hope after an orange tabby slips through his open apartment window. A love interest names the visitor “Bob,” and James adds him to his guitar-strumming street act, convinced the cat will attract a high-paying audience as a purring purveyor of adorable high fives.
Hijinks ensue between performers and passers-by (and once between James and his estranged father), but they’re mostly without lasting consequence. At odds with the film’s sweetness is James’ drug-addicted past, which follows him no matter how hard he tries to escape it.
Fed-up with having to down regular doses of methadone, the musician decides to go cold turkey and spends a lengthy scene writhing out a detox. It’s unpleasant to watch but keeps the plot from teetering too far into mawkishness. Treadaway, a veteran of the London stage, further resists oversentimentalizing James by playing him with a rich inner life. His large eyes do many things, going glassy when high but wide with wonder when looking at his furry companion.
Bob, who’s played by Bob himself, is a big-cheeked scene stealer who only gets cuter when a fan crochets him a tiny scarf. Thanks to the likability of its two leads, A Street Cat Named Bob charms despite its predictability.
A Street Cat Named Bob
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Opens November 18, Village East Cinema
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 16, 2016