Friday, 6 January 2017

A Street Cat named Bob (4 Stars)

The name of this film is a mouthful. I prefer to just call it "Bob".

"Bob" has been advertised as a comedy, but it's a very serious story, moving and heart-warming. It's based on a autobiographical book by James Bowen called "A street cat named Bob, and how he saved my life". That's even more of a mouthful! The book sold over a million copies in the UK alone, and it spent more than 76 weeks at the top of the Sunday Times bestseller list.

In 2007 James Bowen was living on the street in London. He was a heroin addict, and he was earning a small amount of money by playing guitar on the streets. He was given a house to live in on condition that he began a drug rehabilitation program with methadone. Shortly after moving into the house he found a stray cat which attached itself to him after he fed him. Cats are like that. The cat was called Bob by his neighbour, Betty. More precisely, she was a hippy-ish character who claimed the cat told her his name was Bob. In the following weeks Bob accompanied James when he went out singing, resulting in bigger crowds and bigger tips. Bob also helped James by giving him companionship and helping him overcome his addiction.

Methadone is a controversial substance. In many countries, including England, it's the main drug used to cure heroin addiction. In many other countries it's illegal. Even in countries where it's used there are many critics. The social worker in the film tells James that coming off methadone is more difficult than coming off heroin.

So, is methadone good? I don't know. In the last 15 years I've known two people who succeeded in becoming clean with the help of methadone. Critics say that for every person that methadone helps there are 10 failures. It's a drug that has a similar effect to heroin, but it has two big advantages. First, it's consumed as a liquid, not by injection, so there's less chance of an infection. Second, it's given on prescription, not bought illegally, so crime isn't needed to get money to pay for it. Under medical supervision the methadone dosage is slowly be reduced until it can be stopped altogether, but the final drop to zero is the hardest time. Critics of methadone say that it's better to break heroin addiction by locking an addict in a room without drugs until the addiction is broken, however long it takes. That has the same success rate as methadone. Unless there are any unbiased studies that I don't know about, it seems to be a matter of opinion which is better.

The most amazing thing about the film is that the cat who plays Bob is the real Bob himself. After attaching himself to the real James, how could he become attached to a new, fictional James? He must have been given a lot of cat treats to bribe him.

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