A Gift from Bob / A Christmas Gift from Bob – film review

Palace Electric Canberra
From 3 December 2020
Rated PG, 92 mins

James Bowen was a busker and recovering addict when, in 2007, he rescued an abandoned and injured cat, nursing it back to health.

He and the cat, christened Bob, became inseparable, winning admirers as they performed and sold The Big Issue on the streets of London.

This is a Christmas sequel to the international hit film A Street Cat Named Bob, based on books ghost written by Garry Jenkins,

It is a vehicle for James Bowen to look back at the last Christmas he and Bob spent scraping a living on the streets and how Bob helped him through one of his toughest times – providing strength, friendship and inspiration.

Bowen’s 2012 memoir A Street Cat Named Bob about their life-saving friendship became an international best-seller, inspiring a series of adult and children’s titles as well as a 2016 movie of the same name.

Bowen continues to live in London where he writes music and is an advocate for homeless and animal welfare charities. Sadly, Bob the world-famous street cat, died in June 2020, and this film is dedicated to him.

There is no doubt that this film comes at an opportune time when people are looking for good news stories, stories of hope and redemption. As it is based on real events, one need hardly dwell on issues of verisimilitude. It’s not a film for that. It’s a film for losing oneself to, the story of a close friendship between a man and his cat, the man both carer and the needy one in the relationship.

It doesn’t matter perhaps that the baddies border on caricatures. Our sympathies are focussesd on James and Bob. We are content to dislike the aggressive animal welfare officer and the undiscovered thieves who stole all the Christmas gifts and goodies from Bea’s collection centre. (Sorry for the spoiler, but perhaps it’s not entirely unpredictable).

Bea’s admonishment of James for being self-centred may be a little harsh but perhaps is somewhat accurate in the context. However, we see James in a glowing light for most of the time, doing what he can to survive, stay on the straight and narrow and to look after Bob, who does come to grief at one stage thanks to bingeing on ‘off’ chicken.

We do have to constantly remember that this film is framed as a retrospective story. It circles back to the beginning finally when the other homeless person has heard the whole story of James and Bob and has found hope there.

If we want to be Scrooge or Grinch we can pick holes in this film for its transparency, its naivety and its predictable plot. The fact that so often stories on the street do not work out well pulls us back from such temptation to churlishness.

The film intends to be ‘feel good’, something you can take your children and grandchildren to, which differs from the endless Hollywood big budget animation. You can come out of the cinema with your young people and have a discussion about all the many issues they will see in the story.

Credible and understated performances by most of the cast should also be commended.

  • Directed by Charles Martin Smith
  • Writer and executive producer: Garry Jenkins
  • Produced by Adam Rolston, Tracy Jarvis, Steve Jarvis, Andrew Boswell and Sunny Vohra
  • Starring Luke Treadaway, Bob the Cat, Kristina Tonteri-Young, Phaldut Sharma

Thanks to Nedco for access to preview screening.