I admire, above all else, the subtlety that an actress can bring to a role. Besides this subtlety, consistency is also crucial to an actress’ career and performance. Samantha Morton is a particularly fascinating actress and one who has consistently used her subtlety to its most effective. Morton is a British actress but has worked with a variety of people, from gritty British directors such as Lynne Ramsay to Hollywood master Steven Spielberg. Her portfolio of work reflects her versatility and ability to apply herself to a variety of different genres, styles and stories. Here I will take a closer look at five of her greatest performances and think about how Samantha Morton portrays herself as an actress and a character. Perhaps it’s best to start with her most globally successful role in Spielberg’s Minority Report. Her portrayal of Agatha, the pre-cog used by a futuristic crime prevention programme to predict murders and crimes, is haunting and wonderfully minimalistic. Her character develops gradually and becomes more rounded and fascinating as each minute ticks by. Morton’s physical transformation is dazzling and yet it never seemed to receive as much attention as actresses such as Sigourney Weaver or Natalie Portman, who also shaved their heads for specific roles. Morton demonstrated her personal ability to translate to an American audience through Spielberg’s cyber-punk epic.
A film that balances an American aesthetic with the struggles often faced in the films of British directors, such as Ken Loach, is In America. Jim Sheridan beautifully combines fantasy and childhood imagination with gritty realism. Morton gives a raw and admirably ugly performance and is complimented perfectly by Paddy Considine. The two actors create a heartbreaking vision of a marriage that is being torn apart by a past tragedy. Morton gives a performance that centralises around maternity and resentment. She is a mother trying to deal with a huge loss and, as the cracks start to show, Morton propels herself brilliantly. Yet again, Samantha Morton plays her part in a collapsing relationship in Enduring Love. Her role here is complex and she manages to project a realistic image of a woman gradually crumbling under her partner’s possible paranoia. Morton is, once again, complimentary to her male co-star. Daniel Craig and Morton are electrifying to watch together and through their personal conflicts and turmoil we grow to care for them as individuals and as a couple.
Up until now, we have focussed upon Morton as a strong and feisty character. Yet, I personally think that Samantha Morton was at her best in Control. Playing the overly dependent and largely overlooked partner of Joy Division’s front man, Ian Curtis, Morton transformed into a completely new character. The character’s lack of self esteem was echoed in her soft delivery of dialogue and her addiction to Curtis (played by Sam Riley) is frustrating and fascinating to watch. Morton added an empathy to this film through a character consumed with love and longing. Samantha Morton is an exquisite actress. Her personal interpretations of these vast range of characters are more often than not the highlights of the films themselves. Due to my faith in Morton to consistently deliver, I am now determined to make time to watch Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.