May 13, 2017 -- A recovering drug addict in London takes in a stray cat and says to it, “How many lives are you on? Apparently I'm on my ninth.” As it turns out, both man and beast have a lot of life left in them, enough for a best selling book, and this movie, both based on a true story.
Based on the book of the same name, written by James Bowen (played in the movie by Luke Treadaway of “Unbroken”) this uplifting film tells several tales about broken relationships, recovery from heroin addiction and a man in desperate need who gets help from caring people and a friendly cat.
Bowen, a homeless street busker, is just keeping body and soul together singing, dumpster diving, and taking prescription methadone. Then his drug counselor, Val (played by Joanne Froggatt of “The Incident”) arranges to get him an apartment, fearing he will relapse without a place to stay. Val sees in Bowen a man who wants to kick his addiction, he just needs a reason, and hope for a better life.
A stray cat, Bob (played by the real Bob, along with several stand-ins) gets into Bowen's apartment through the window, and just moves in with him, the way that cats do when they sense a kindly soul. Bowen dutifully goes around the neighborhood, trying to find Bob's owner, but this is futile, since cats don't really have owners, just people they decide to stay with.
One day, he finds Bob injured. With the help of a kindly neighbor, Betty (Ruta Gedmintas of “Filth”) and a free pet clinic, Bob is on the mend, but Bowen has to spend the last of his money for Bob's medicine. Bowen has never made much money as a busker, but he discovers that he makes a lot more money with Bob sitting on top of his shoulders, or on his guitar, as he plays and sings.
That is just the beginning of Bowen's emotional journey as he tries to make a living, kick Methadone addiction, start a new relationship with Betty and tries to reconnect with his father (Anthony Head of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). This is a roller coaster journey of highs and lows and the horror of drug addiction, as well as seeing a fellow addict die of an overdose. Luke Treadaway is excellent in the lead role in this film, both in portraying a wide variety of emotions, as well as singing several songs with feeling.
Veteran director Roger Spottiswoode, best known for “Tomorrow Never Dies” and “The 6th Day” also has experience with this kind of movie and he handles this story just right by not letting it get too sentimental or melodramatic. He shows us the gritty side of street life and addiction, as well as the warmth of the people who help Bowen out of his deep well of trouble. Spottiswoode also wrote several songs for the singer-songwriter-oriented soundtrack.
Cats, unlike dogs, are not enablers. You can let yourself go to the point of starving, but a cat won't go that far. Cats insist on being fed, and Bowen has to get up and make some money, if not for himself, then for Bob. The cat acts as a catalyst (pardon the pun) for action and it also acts as Bowen's connection to other people. Before he met Bob, Bowen was invisible to people. Accompanied by Bob, Bowen gets noticed, and that is what led to these two becoming internationally famous.
I saw this on blu-ray last night (it was released for sale on video on May 9). The disk also contains two short features about Bowen and Bob and the making of the film. There is also a slide show of photos from the production. The disk, however, does not include subtitles, which would have been helpful for me to interpret some of the British accents and slang.
This is a well-acted, well-made film that should appeal to a wide audience, just as the best-selling book did. This film rates a B.
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