We say goodbye to a bulldog of cinema by looking at one of his most undersung performances.
The recent passing of Bob Hoskins has brought forward a number of eulogies and fan tributes, most notably for his most accomplished and renowned piece, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, in which he played Eddie Valiant. Other renowned films were The Long Good Friday, where he played Harold Shand, known to be his breakthrough role, and his Academy Award-nominated performance in Mona Lisa, as George. These films were to define Hoskins in the 80s and lead him to big Hollywood roles in the 90s, like as Smee in Spielberg’s Hook.
A complex Hoskins carries his menacingly unhinged character through his softly spoken, downplayed Birmingham accent
It is in such memory I wish to bring up a much forgotten masterpiece that Hoskins made in the late 90s, one that has the actor at his most terrifying – that is Felicia’s Journey. The plot is simple; an Irish girl named Felicia escapes Ireland to meet her boyfriend, Johnny, who is working somewhere in Birmingham. Joseph Hilditch (Hoskins) is working as a catering chef at a factory and the pair encounter each other on the street. Hilditch gives the lost Felicia directions to various factories in the area and the two become increasingly close. As the film progresses, Hilditch unveils a dark past and an unhinged relationship with his former TV chef mother, and his relationship with Felicia becomes increasingly suspect.
This psychological thriller has Hoskins at his most complex, as he carries the menacingly unhinged character through his softly spoken, downplayed Birmingham accent. Whenever he is in the factory readying the menu for the unseen, and by all likelihood ungrateful, factory workers it is done with passion and a mother-like care. As the film delves deeper into his personal life, the tension mounts and Hilditch’s motivations begin to surface.
It becomes apparent that his issues with his mother have manifested themselves into a series of irrevocable actions. As much isn’t given away in the first half of the movie, this creeping sense of dread comes through Hoskins’s acting. His piercing stares and restrained frustration leaves one with a sense of unease, which amplifies the film’s tension. It is important to note this mother-son relationship is suffocating when looking in Hilditch’s home, but is simultaneously underplayed with minimal on-screen interactions.
Felicia’s Journey displays Hoskins’s most overlooked performance, and unfortunately so
Felicia’s own character arc bears strong resemblances to Hilditch, via complex mother-daughter issues and an inability to rid herself of the past. Her past and relationships manifest themselves into a stronger understanding of contemporary society, and a perceivedact of direct rebellion against her traditionalist parents (they don’t appear to possess a telephone). Unlike Hilditch, where his intentions appear to be sinister, Felicia attempts to accept this newly discovered society and prepare to cope with some of the ills it presents.
This mature psychological thriller has one of Bob Hoskins’s finest performances and most definitely sees him at his most sinister. The contortion of innocence and the manifestation of frustration and anger into menace are done with that sense of unease. Hoskins’s Joseph Hilditch displays the actor’s most overlooked performance, and unfortunately so, for the complex emotions and complicated acting choices makes this a standout performance of his career.
All images: Icon Entertainment