“Stronger, together.” – A Christmas Gift From Bob (Film Review)

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Londoner James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) continues to busk around the streets of London, earning a small wage where he can and make ends meet, all with the help of his ginger pet cat Bob who is never far from his side.

While a famous face on the streets thanks to Bob, James still struggles to make it through each day, without much support around him bar shelter worker Bea (Kristina Tonteri-Young). And as Christmas approaches, the festive season brings his reality all the more closer.

The pressure of the season adds to the stress James faces, especially when Animal Welfare comes sniffing around to investigate Bob’s situation at home. James must find the strength in himself to carry on stronger for the pair and prove that they really are stronger together…

Well, what a wonderful festive treat. This sequel to the 2016 surprise hit A Street Cat Named Bob brings back the familiar streets of London town, Luke Treadaway as busker James and his pet cat Bob. Just like the original, this is heart-warming and tender for the festive period, whilst not being afraid to challenge the continued darker side of the season with homelessness and confrontations with the law.

The story does what all festive tales should do – start on a positive, and then go back to tell the tale of how we got there. ‘A Christmas Past’ opens up by telling the story of what James and Bob did in the few years between where we left them and where we picked up. It’s a bleaker affair, but something that is so honest and relevant in London, and many other cities, today. Trying to earn a steady and reputable living by selling ‘The Big Issue’ magazine on the streets proves to be as difficult as it was the first time; people still judge, cast preconceptions, and refuse to open their hearts. But, being a family festive film, director Charles Martin Smith (yes, he of ‘The Untouchables’) balances the temptation to turn darker with gentle humour and only mild threat; nothing of which will cause any offence or upset.

Treadaway is once again likeable as real-life busker James Bowen and has remarkable on-screen chemistry with the real-life cat himself, Bob, forged from their original outing. He continues to play guitar and sing a few songs across the film, and is a likable man who you easily side with when faced with hardship. The factors that James is faced with seem to happen all at the same time, and you can’t help feel sorry for him. Lack of food, money, and routine all play a part in highlighting the downside to this tale.

Seeing Bob nonchalantly perched on James’s shoulder as he walks and busks the streets is wonderful. A lot of charm may be lost on international audiences as this is a very British film with very British actors, settings, and scenarios, but the bridge between all may just be Bob, the ginger cat who draws nothing but smiles and “awwws” from audiences.  With a few shots from the cat’s point of view and close-ups on his little face, director Smith helps create just enough of an idea of what Bob may be thinking or feeling to make it humorous without ever being silly.

It’s a bittersweet final film for the pair, as Bob passed away months after filming was complete in early 2020 and the film is lovingly dedicated to his feline memory.

New face Kristina Tonteri-Young as shelter worker Bea tries to spread the veins of hope and positivity when Treadaway is faced with hardship and is a sweet addition to the many faces who help out the pair when they can, but not without their own issues to deal with.

This is a story of friendship expanded on from the first film. There are no battles with drugs and substance abuse this time, but it’s a battle against finding what is important to you and not take anything for granted. James and Bob must prove to external forces that they are right in being with each other and that neither is in any harm regardless of their unique situation. Of course we know how things will turn out, but it’s the journey getting there and the humanity found in the darkest of moods to triumph.

A steady pace at 90 minutes ticks the story over without any real show-stopping moments, but there does seem to be a little magic lost from the surprising original. However, this is a film for the many Bob fans and families out there wanting a gentle film about heart and friendship over Christmas with a very loving, cozy and festive outcome. It certainly channels the spirit of community and support.

We all need a friend like Bob in our lives right now at Christmas time, that much is clear.

Dir: Charles Martin Smith

Scr: Garry Jenkins

Cast: Luke Treadaway, Anna Wilson-Jones, Kristina Tonteri-Young, Nina Wadia, Bob (the cat)

Prd: Adam Rolston, Stephen Jarvis, Tracy Jarvis, Martin Metz & Adrian Politowski

DoP: David Connell

Country: UK

Year: 2020

Runtime: 90 minutes

A Christmas Gift From Bob is available to own on Blu-ray / DVD and streaming services, along with select cinemas adhering to current COVID-19 safety guidelines

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