Feline Christmassy? Check out my very spoilery plot recap below. (My review of A Christmas Gift From Bob is here.)
In Bob’s new based-on-a-true-story movie, his owner (if any cat can be said to have an owner) James Bowen is nearly caught in a downward spiral as his fragile progress threatens to crumble, through no fault of his own.
It’s a timely reminder that for the most vulnerable in society, the slightest nudge off-course can have potentially disastrous consequences. And it’s all made much worse because the council animal welfare department are thinking of removing Bob from James’s care.
This all takes place as a long flashback, told by James – by now in a good place again – to Ben, a young homeless man.
James steps in to help Ben after leaving a Christmas party held by his publishers. By now James’s first book about Bob is a bestseller, and he’s mingling with famous authors including Jaqueline Wilson – who alone understands his fear over whether he can think of a storyline for that much anticipated second book about Bob.
He sees Ben being illegally held for busking, and realises one of the chief bullies is Leon, an unpleasant council official whom James has come up against before.
James takes Ben for a burger, and decides to tell Ben a story about his and Bob’s Christmas Past. He’s trying to show Ben that many people do care, and with their support he can navigate a course to a happier and more settled life, despite the obstacles some parts of society will put in his way…
James is living in his supported housing flat but he’s also skint, and worrying how to make ends meet over the next few weeks.
He needs £200 but his pitches for busking and selling the Big Issue are becoming crowded.
A bright spot occurs when a smarmy politician comes out of the tube station followed by press photographers, and presses a note into James’s hands before posing with him for a photograph. It’s foreign currency, 1000 of something, but when James takes it to a foreign exchange he finds out the 1000 Lek note from Albania is worth only £7.50, and their lower limit for cashing foreign currency is £10.
Soon Leon is on his case too, trying to have Bob taken off James. He witnesses Bob being attacked by a dog on a lead, which leaves Bob with a cut.
At Bea’s suggestion, James takes him to see a vet who offers free care. Bob is fine, though while they’re waiting for him to be treated James and Bea look out over the London skyline and talk about the rich in the city, and how homeless people are ignored and unwanted.
One problem leads to another and then another, leading James to wonder if Bob really would be better off without him. He accidentally leaves his electric fire on when he goes out for the day to work, which eats all the money he’s put on his electricity meter pop-up cards. When he gets home the meter has run out, so the food in his freezer has mostly spoiled. He puts it in the bin, but the next day Bob gets into it and eats what he can find. Later James finds him listless having been sick. James is also attacked in a park by a dealer trying to sell him drugs, who ends up breaking James’s guitar which he needs to busk.
As the animal welfare department tracks down people who know James and Bob to gather evidence on whether James is a suitable owner, people who know and love Bob start emailing and writing letters to Leon’s partner Ruth. A viral video of Leon shouting at James, who pushes him in frustration, brings James more sympathy. James’s friend Moody, who runs the local shop, starts a petition to keep them together.
James has no idea how many people love him and Bob, or the influence he has had. One day he’s surprised by a crowd of people bringing Bob presents; and posh TV cook Arabella, whom James once helped, gives him a Christmas hamper. Fellow Big Issue seller Mick, who was estranged from his daughter, gets back in contact with her after talking to James.
But will James be allowed to keep Bob? Come on, it’s Christmas!
Having made the decision, Ruth and Leon get out of their van wielding a cat carrier. James is preparing to tell them Bob would be better off without him, when it turns out he’s being allowed to keep Bob. The carrier is to take him to work, as James and Bob are also being offered a position in pet therapy. James pushes the 1000 Lek note into Leon’s hand as a thank you.
The final scenes take place in James’ flat on Christmas Day (presumably a year later). Ben is now a Big Issue seller getting back on his feet. He comes for Christmas dinner, along with Bea. While James and Bea aren’t yet an item it looks as if it’s going that way.
Then James gives her his new book about Bob, based on what his cat had taught him that terrible Christmas…