The longer Robert Downey Jnr can stay off the nose candy, the better it will be for cinema.

The former Hollywood bad boy continues his career resurgence with a remarkable performance in drama The Soloist.

Based on true events, Joe Wright’s film focuses on the friendship between LA Times columnist Steve Lopez (Downey Jnr) and Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a homeless man.

Looking for something to write about, Lopez finds the ideal subject in Ayers, a former Juilliard cello prodigy who suffers from severe schizophrenia and now plays for passers-by in LA’s slums.

The journo initially thinks he can write a rags-to-riches story but realises Ayers will always be unreachable.

While The Soloist is sometimes guilty of heavy-handed symbolism, the film doesn’t ever lapse into sentimentality. A realistic portrayal of the devastating effects of mental illness, Wright’s film doesn’t try to provide any easy answers.

Revelling in the interesting material are Foxx and Downey Jnr, whose subtle yet powerful turns were criminally ignored by the Academy this year.

Let’s hope Downey Jnr can stay on the straight and narrow.

Good for: Those who like challenging movies.