stuart: a life backwards

(Based on a true story. TV film by BBC and HBO – you might catch it on HBO one night.)

Alexander Masters (Benedict Cumberbatch) works for a charity group that helps homeless people. One day, their facility gets raided and the two charity workers in charge, later dubbed as the Cambridge Two, are arrested. Apparently, some of the homeless men they are helping have been selling drugs. Alexander helps set up a campaign to free the Cambridge Two, and in one meeting, he meets Stuart Shorter (Tom Hardy), who has brilliant ideas to help free the charity workers. “My name is Psycho, but you can call me Stuart,” he says, and he and Alexander become fast friends. Alexander tells Stuart that he wants to write a book about him, and though baffled by his interest, Stuart tells him to tell it backwards, to make it exciting, “like a Tom Clancy novel”.

In one scene, Stuart asks Alexander why he considers him – a criminal and a man with an unstable mind – as a friend. “Because you’re funny, intelligent, good company- what do you want, a fucking love letter?” Alexander says, but in the end that’s what Stuart gets. A love letter in the form of a biography, and later, this film, from a friend who has heard his darkest secrets but still loved him and wanted him understood and remembered.

Fine, fine performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy. I can’t praise them enough.

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