It is beyond me how Stuart: A Life Backwards is still such an underrated and obscure movie. Not only did BBC and HBO joined forces to produce it but it also features two young and incredibly talented actors. Both Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch were compelling, giving us a preview of performances to come. And to top it all of, the movie is based on true events! Actually, they worked off a book written by Alexander Masters about the life of Stuart Shorter. He’s a homeless person whom Alexander met, befriended, and eventually decided to work with writing his biography. Smart and eloquent, Stuart is able to articulate his experiences into an engaging narrative. He talks about a world we don’t know much about and his troubled life. I will stop here and leave you to discover the rest yourselves.
While Stuart: A Life Backwards is indeed a drama dealing with some really difficult subjects, the entire tone of the movie is very vibrant and funny. The movie would be too dark and hard to digest if they went for that usual drama vibe. Although it starts as a quirky dramedy, just give it some time and you’ll soon find yourself fixated on the characters and incredibly engaging story. And when I say, incredibly engaging I really mean it. This is a phenomenally nuanced and honest character study without any hints of preachiness or pretentiousness. It just shows you how things are and leaves all the conclusions for you. Just as any masterpiece should.
Alexander Masters is a young guy working with Wintercomfort for the Homeless located in Cambridge. This is just a thing he does for money as he’s still trying to figure out what he could do. After the directors of the center are arrested he starts a campaign for their release and meets an interesting character called Stuart. He’s a homeless person, an alcoholic, a former prisoner, and an addict full of wild and troubling experiences. Alexander decides to write his biography and this is how the two of them become friends.
I just can’t emphasize enough how entertaining Stuart: A Life Backwards is. If this wasn’t a true story, it would be definitely a comedy, black comedy that is. The style of filming resembles those pseudo-documentary shows like The Office but you will soon forget all about it because the movie is that good. They used it to highlight the grittiness and realism of both the characters and locations.
Speaking of which, Hardy’s performance here was simply stunning. It was like watching all interactions I had with addicts rolled into one. From the groaning sounds, range of movement to surprising wits, everything felt authentic. The same goes for a lot of small details that you can hardly notice. The state of Stuart’s flat, his sleeves with holes for fingers, and many other things add a special level of believability and immersion.
Finally, I want to talk about the society we live in. And I know that you’re probably sick of my rants by now, but I simply have to say something. We measure if a society has reached a higher level if we find evidence of them treating the old and injured. And although we do have some safety nets placed in our society, it is still a tribal society nonetheless. And you know what that means.
If you have “weak genes” and “weak will”, you will be cast out from the tribe. If you’re different in any way compared first to the ideal and then to normal, you are out. This passive eugenics program has always been going on in the background. This is the reason why the strongest (athletes) and most beautiful ones are celebrated. I will add the smartest but we all know how it goes. But enough of that, Rabbit Reviews is here to make you think and watch some movies, not preach.
Director: David Attwood
Writers: Alexander Masters
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Nicola Duffett, Claire-Louise Cordwell, Candis Nergaard, Trevor Sellers, Joanna Maude
Fun Facts: With Tom Hardy being a method actor, he lost weight in preparation for filming to give his character the thin look of the drug addict and suicidal figure Stuart Shorter was in real life.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0853153/