The real Bob himself, quite rightly, is the star of the piece, alongside a whole line-up of Bob look-alikes, and still you marvel just how director Roger Spottiswoode managed to achieve the degree of cat compliance which underpins this film. Somehow he does, and the re-telling of James Bowen’s wonderfully-uplifting tale of second chances grabbed and swallowed is quite beautifully done.
If you are in the fortunate position of not knowing the story, you will have a nerve-racking ride as Bowen, a drug addict busking in Covent Garden, is repeatedly knocked back by all sorts of malice and misfortune in his efforts to go clean.
And it’s this which gives the edge to a story which also manages to carry just a whiff of fairy tale about it: the story of a man so far down he’s almost out until a street cat named Bob enters his life.
Luke Treadaway steps into the shoes of the real-life Bowen’s with a performance which superbly blends decency and vulnerability. Bob climbs in through the kitchen window, adopts him and shows him the way.
Fate still manages to kick Bowen repeatedly, but Bob – apart from a brief absence – remains steadfast. Just his presence is enough to make Bowen a focus for a rather more benevolent kind of interest as he variously busks and sells The Big Issue. Through Bob’s influence, through the support of his case worker Val (Joanne Froggatt) and his damaged, enigmatic near-neighbour (Ruta Gedmintas), Bowen gets his life back on track.
The beauty of the film is that it never tumbles into sentimentality; equally it never attempts to manipulate us into reaching for our hankies.
It simply retells the tale with directness and honesty – and the result is an absolute gem, a story of how hope can take the most unlikely of forms in seemingly the most desperate of situations.
The acting, the tone, the style, everything is judged to perfection.
As for Bob, well, you could just watch him for hours. Without doubt, the film of the year so far...
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