Clare's Criterion Collection

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Hobson’s Choice – Review # 2

on July 27, 2013
Criterion Collection Spine # 461 
Available in DVD 
Special features:
  • New high-definition digital transfer from a restoration by the BFI National Archive, funded by the David Lean Foundation and StudioCanal
  • Audio commentary featuring film scholars Alain Silver and James Ursini, co-authors of David Lean and His Films
  • The Hollywood Greats: Charles Laughton, a 1978 BBC documentary about the actor’s life and career, featuring interviews with his family, friends, and colleagues
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A new essay by critic Armond White 
  • New cover by F. Ron Miller
Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.Review

The opening shot of this film is so typical of northern England, row after row of terraced houses. Add in other cinematography such as chimneys billowing smoke into the sky, children playing in the street, their Mothers sweeping the front step whilst talking with the neighbours and you have the backdrop of old Edwardian life. When you mix in the language used, the old British class system and the local pub it brings together a setting that makes this film so real life.
Our attention is soon turned to Henry Hobson and his family, which consists of himself, a man who thinks he runs the household, and his 3 Daughters. Together they run the family boot-making store in Salford, Manchester. Two of his Daughters, Alice and Vicky, are in secret relationships and waiting for the right moment for their suitors to approach their Father. Henry Hobson learns, via his friends down the pub (a place he likes to frequent) that he would have to pay a “settlement” when any of his Daughter’s marries. The sum is an outrageous amount so he decrees that there will be no marriages for anyone. During this conversation it becomes apparent that Henry is only speaking of Alice and Vicky. Maggie, the eldest Daughter, enquires as to why she is not involved; the response is “you’re too old”.
This sets in motion a chain of events that leads Henry on a downward spiral. Along the way he managed to land himself in a cellar, receive a lawsuit and face a serious health issue. He hits rock bottom as his Daughters move away and has to revaluate his life in order to survive. All actors in this film play their part to the max, another reason for its success.
Overall this is a bloody hilarious British comedy and being a Northerner myself I could relate instantly to this film. The extras received included a very insightful documentary on the life and career of Charles Laughton. I also found the audio commentary to be very helpful in helping me understand the film better.

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