New Obsession – Stuart: A Life Backwards


When it comes to movies and TV, I’m usually pretty copacetic.  I’m picky about what I’ll watch, but after that I have low standards, and I’m generally pretty good about accepting things as they are.

However, when I encounter something that I love – no, love – then I become obsessive.  I watch it, then I watch it again.  And again.  And play it in the background.  I look up information about the series.  Glom the actors’ past work.  Dig through IMDB.  Etc. etc.  My most recent obsession has been “Sherlock”, the BBC TV series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, who are absolutely brilliant.  But in glomming both of their works, I came across the TV movie “Stuart: A Life Backwards”, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy.  And man, new obsession here.

You may remember Tom Hardy as one of the guys in “Inception”.  He also played an MMA fighter in “Warrior”, was Bill Sykes, Robert Dudley and Heathcliff on TV, and will be the villain in the new Batman movie.  Honestly, I didn’t remember him in “Inception” (I didn’t find the movie terribly memorable), but I will definitely remember him in “Stuart”.

Stuart Shorter is an “ex-homeless, ex-junkie psychopath” with muscular dystrophy who meets Alexander Masters, a Cambridge PhD student working in a homeless charity.  Alexander, a poncey upper-middle class twat played to subtle perfection by Benedict Cumberbatch, decides to write Stuart’s biography.  The first draft is rubbish, according to Stuart.  “Why don’t you write it backwards”, he says, “like a Tom Clancy novel? Then people can figure out what murdered the child I was.”

The result is an absolutely stunning performance by Tom Hardy.  Stuart is a mumbling, frightening, pathetic character whose sad history is interspersed with the present.  Tom Hardy’s incarnation of Stuart is often incoherent, incredibly self-aware, sweet, smart, and utterly lost.

I don’t often watch TV – actually, never would be a closer estimate.  (I borrow things from friends and buy DVDs, and they’re always movies.  Never shows.  I don’t have the patience.)  But “Stuart: A Life Backwards” blew me out of the water.  I’m reading the biography right now, which is equally good; together, they have given me a view of homelessness and addiction that I have never encountered before.  I highly recommend both.

Have you seen Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, or Martin Freeman’s work?  What’s your obsession of the moment?

– Jean AAR

6 thoughts on “New Obsession – Stuart: A Life Backwards

  1. Kim T.

    Love Tom Hardy since I saw him as Heathcliff. You should also see Rocknrolla…he’s charming in that one. He and Michael Fassbender are my favorite rising stars. Hardy will also be in a ridiculous but fun movie called This Means War with Reese Witherspoon.

    Still resisting the Sherlock TV series and don’t know why. My roommate raves about it. I think it will take a while for me to warm up to Benedict for some reason.

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  2. Jean AAR Post author

    Kim T – Haven’t seen any of those Hardy recs, so I will! I saw the trailer for the Reese Witherspoon, and TH didn’t even register; he has a way of completely disappearing into his role that’s amazing (and his American accent is completely genuine).

    Re Sherlock: I can understand resisting watching or reading something that has been hyped, if only because I’m afraid that it won’t live up to the reputation; it was like that with the Windflower for me. Have you seen BC in other stuff that put you off him?

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  3. Kim T.

    I think it must have been his role in Atonement, although until you all mentioned it I hadn’t put that together. I’m actually almost through the first episode and I still don’t like him. I know he’s playing the role perfectly and he’s supposed to be prickly. Still, I put him in the same category as Matt Smith and David Tennant, the kind of wacky, odd Englishman club. For the same reason, I can’t get into the later Doctor Who series.

    I prefer the another category of Englishman/actor…more like Richard Armitage, Christopher Eccleston, Idris Elba, Matthew MacFadyen and Rupert Penry Jones. I like them more brooding.

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  4. Susan/DC

    Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy are both in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and both are very good — the movie as a whole is full of good performances and well worth watching. I first became aware of BC when he played William Pitt the younger in the movie “Amazing Grace”.

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