Best Actress of the Decade, Entry No. 22: Sally Hawkins

To celebrate the last decade 2010-2019 we are counting down the best actresses and discussing some of their most notable and memorable performances of the last decade. With the help of Film Twitter, the ITOL team have selected 30 actresses. Entry No. 22 is Sally Hawkins, and writer James Cain discusses some memorable performances by Sally Hawkins over the last decade.

By James Cain

Why does Sally Hawkins deserve her place on this list? Here are bitesize looks at four of her best roles!

“Layer Cake”, 2004*

Here, Hawkins takes on the role of coked-up Slasher, part of an amateur gang whose disastrous trip to the Netherlands kickstarts the film’s plot. Despite her role being fairly minor, the actor makes a great impression with her cockney accent and high-strung antics. A comedy character, Slasher is the kind of woman who’ll accidentally shoot a person to death and then hysterically haggle over a drug deal. It’s the kind of performance that makes you hope that Hawkins goes for more hilariously undignified performances in the future.

* Editor’s note- Yes, we know it’s from 2004, but she’s great in “Layer Cake”

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Sally Hawkins in Submarine (2010) © Photo courtesy of the Sundance Institute.

“Submarine”, 2010

Jill Tate is a woman living in 80s Swansea with a depressed child and husband – the former fully at odds with his environment and the latter unengaged with their relationship. As a result, she begins a flirtation with a new-age doofus across the road, leaving both of the men in her life terrified that she’s This going to leave them. This time round, Hawkins is one of the main players (albeit supporting the younger leads), giving a truly tragic performance full of yearning and bottled-up energy. Her work as Jill allows her to show off those impressive comedic skills with small, subtle moments of humour, too.

Hawkins’ big, toothy smile and electrified eyes are perfect for the human moral-centre of the “Paddington”, and her two vibrant performances means that she’s now one of the greatest movie mums ever.

paddint
Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, and Samuel Joslin in Paddington (2014) © 2015 – StudioCanal

“Paddington”, 2014 / “Paddington 2”, 2017

Arguably her most famous role, Mary Brown has given Hawkins a place in two bona-fide family classics. Despite family matriarchs usually being overly-sensible in family films, Mary is the family’s adventurer, a mix of pure kindness and derring-do charisma. Indeed, were it not for her Paddington would never have become part of the Brown family at all, with Mary’s first-act gesture of kindness helping you fall totally in love with the character. Hawkins’ big, toothy smile and electrified eyes are perfect for the human moral-centre of the “Paddington”, and her two vibrant performances means that she’s now one of the greatest movie mums ever.

Hawkins is the lead and the centre of dark, romantic fantasy “The Shape Of Water”, bringing a sweet tenderness and deep, sexual hunger to Elisa Esposito.

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Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017) © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

“The Shape Of Water”, 2017

In which Sally Hawkins fucks a fish. Sure, Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar winner has a lot to love: The creature design, the set design, the music, not to mention Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones and Octavia Spencer on fine form. But Hawkins is the lead and the centre of dark, romantic fantasy “The Shape Of Water”, bringing a sweet tenderness and deep, sexual hunger to Elisa Esposito. Our hero is mute, delivering all of her dialogue via American sign language. To many actors this would likely present an insurmountable hurdle in performing to the best of their abilities, but if you’d never seen the actor in anything before you might wonder if she’d communicated in sign since birth.

What performance from Sally Hawkins is your personal favourite? Let us know in the comments below!

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