The Feline, Festive Feel Of A Very Non-2020 Christmas Movie by Tom Beasley

My job allows me to do a lot of cool things and, this time last year, I found myself on a film set. It wasn’t a globe-trotting Hollywood production of Spielbergian size and spectacle, but a small British movie shot on a fairly low budget. The scenes on the schedule were due to take place over Christmas in Covent Garden and they were being filmed in Covent Garden at Christmas. Not quite the magic of the movies at its most fantastical. The reason I mention all of this, though, is that I was finally able to see the film at the end of October – and it was exactly what I needed.

The movie in question is A Christmas Gift from Bob, which is a sequel to the genuinely lovely 2016 film A Street Cat Named Bob. Based on the real life of Big Issue seller turned author James Bowen, the first movie followed James – played by award-winning actor Luke Treadaway – as he recovered from heroin addiction and got himself off the streets after bonding with the titular stray feline. It was a heart-warming drama and, unsurprisingly, it’s just as charming when Christmas is thrown into the mix for the sequel.

This film hits hard in the winter of 2020 for a number of reasons. Firstly, the real-life Bob – who appears as himself on the big screen – passed away earlier this year after being hit by a car, with the movie of course being dedicated to him. And secondly, we’re currently staring down the barrel of a festive season weighed down with the impact of a pandemic, in which even sharing dinner with family might not be possible by the time the big day comes around. A Christmas Gift from Bob is a movie about the importance of humans reaching out a helping hand to each other – without worrying about whether they washed it while singing Happy Birthday twice beforehand.

The movie is an uplifting drama, for sure, but like so many of the films that have been able to be released this year, it already feels like a historical artefact. When I think back to shaking hands with people on that set, or heading up to say hello to Bob in his dressing room (pictured), it’s difficult to reconcile that with the way I am today – barely comfortable leaving the house at all. Movies have been a real comfort this year, offering a glimpse of the world that we all took for granted as 2019 ticked over into 2020. When we get it back, we should all treasure it a lot more.

I’m writing this piece in the aftermath of the prime minister announcing a second national lockdown in England, though he has resisted calling it that and instead pretended it’s his own, original idea rather than what opposition leaders, medical experts and other sane folk have been calling for since September. He seems pretty sure that Christmas is safe but, if this year has taught us anything, it’s that everyone is working things out as they go along and nobody really knows what’s going to happen next.

So movies are all we have to evoke the incomparable feeling of the most wonderful time of the year. If you haven’t taken Bob up on that gift yet, now is the time to do so. It might be the biggest blast of Christmas spirit that this year allows.

© 2020 Tom Beasley

Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist living just outside London and originally from Coventry. He can be reached at tomjbeasley@gmail.com.