FILM OF THE WEEK: A Street Cat Named Bob (12A) ****

Bob, and Luke Treadaway as James. PA Photo/Sony.
Bob, and Luke Treadaway as James. PA Photo/Sony.
(Back to camera) Garrett Hedlund as Jamie McAllan. (Front of cart) Mary J. Blige as Florence Jackson (also inset)  and Rob Morgan as Hap Jackson.

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In Roger Spottiswoode’s life-affirming drama, a stray ginger tabby cat becomes a guardian angel for a homeless street performer, who is struggling to escape the choking grasp of addiction on the streets of London.

This deep connection between a broken man and mischievous beast ultimately inspired the busker, James Bowen, to pen a book, which became an international bestseller and turned his four-legged friend into a minor celebrity.

The film version of A Street Cat Named Bob largely eschews sentimentality to chart Bowen’s journey from hopelessness to hard-fought self-redemption, interspersed with comical vignettes from Bob’s perspective including a running battle with a mouse that lives in the walls of his master’s flat.

Director Spottiswoode casts the real-life Bob as his central character’s feline saviour, recreating scenes of Bowen performing in Covent Garden with his ginger sidekick curled protectively around his shoulders.

A cameo from the street performer-turned-author late in the picture completes the blur of heart-rending life and heart-warming fiction.

James (Luke Treadaway) sleeps rough like his friend Baz (Darren Evans) and earns a few coins each day by playing his guitar.

Every week he visits support worker Val (Joanne Froggatt), who oversees the methadone programme that is the first step towards defeating his heroin addiction.

Val manages to secure James a flat to aid his recovery and the busker quickly makes two new friends: a free-spirited neighbour called Belle (Ruta Gedmintas), who knows only too well the devastation wrought by drugs, and a stray cat, which he christens Bob.

Bob’s presence at impromptu busking gigs inspires generosity from normally resistant passersby and James’s confidence grows that he can turn his life around by selling copies of the Big Issue as well as performing, and rebuild bridges with his estranged father.

However, Val is deeply concerned that James might be anchoring his entire recovery to an animal, who could slink away just as quickly as he arrived.

A Street Cat Named Bob offsets the adorable central relationship with sobering scenes of drug abuse.

Treadaway slept rough for the role and he captures the desperation and weary resignation of a man who believes that life has turned its back on him.

Bob the cat is a natural on camera and looks natty in colourful knitted scarves.