An old review (from the New Statesman, Oct, 2007) of Stuart a Life Backwards which I think captures some of what is so great about this extraordinary film:
Benedict Cumberbatch as the posh, slightly nerdy Masters and Tom Hardy as the slurring, staggering (he had muscular dystrophy, on top of everything else) Stuart. Cumberbatch is a scene stealer of such prowess that he can nick an entire movie from its star with a handful of lines (if you don’t believe me, see Starter for Ten, whose lead, supposedly, is James McAvoy). Here, however, his performance was deliberately tamped down. He brought Masters alive with the smallest of tics - slow-blinking myopic eyes , the odd wry look - and managed to avoid making him seem like a patronising prig, a serious danger, given how little time he had to establish his character.
It was Hardy, though, who broke your heart. I can’t remember the last time I saw a performance as convincing as this. Usually, when actors take on “extreme” roles - think Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot- you can see the hard labour that has gone into the acting, and it’s exhausting; part of you just wants to shout: “Oh, speak properly, for God’s sake!” Not here. Hardy was Stuart, and every time he was on screen - which was most of the time - 1 was mesmerised. The clumpy feet, the low-slung trousers, the way his expression changed in a moment, like the sun going behind the clouds: it was all there, almost as if the real Stuart had come back to remind us all what middle-class “scum ponces” we are, with our futile liberal guilt and our lazy assumptions and our need to have a good cry in front of the television on a Sunday night.