Peter Finch in Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

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Peter Finch received his first Oscar nomination for playing Dr Daniel Hirsh in Sunday Bloody Sunday.

I know I mentioned in my previous post that I found Alex Greville to be the most interesting character in Sunday Bloody Sunday, but now that I got to mull over it, I would say that Daniel Hirsh is an equally compelling character in the film. This is probably one of Sunday Bloody Sunday’s greatest strengths – the characterization is absolutely fantastic, and all of the characters are all so multi-faceted and complex, even Bob Elkin, the guy who is shared by Alex and Daniel.

I briefly mentioned Peter Finch in an old post about favourite best actor winners. Finch’s performance here is basically the polar opposite of his iconic Oscar-winning work in Network. Daniel Hirsh is a gay doctor who is also clearly lonely and reliant on Bob for companionship. The interesting thing about Finch’s performance is that he doesn’t show how Hirsh’s homosexuality bothers him at all, and that the main source of his troubles comes from his unstable relationship with Bob.

I feel like the main thing working against Finch here is how under-developed Daniel seems in comparison to Alex. He has considerably less screentime compared to Jackson, but that never bothers me because brilliant characterization is possible with limited screentime (Patricia Neal in Hud). I feel like the insecurities and inner demons of Alex have been fleshed out in so much detail that I ended up wanting to see the same from Finch. You can see flashes of brilliance here and there, such as Daniel’s constant fear of Bob leaving him. The Bar Mitzvah scene was also very strong – I loved how he displayed his discomfort when his family members pestered him to get married. I think Finch utilizes what he has to the best of his abilities, and he does make Daniel a complex and fascinating character, but he does get slightly overshadowed by Jackson’s strong performance.

Still, I don’t want to take away too much from his work here as I still think this is a very good performance by the great Peter Finch. There is a fantastic monologue at the end about how he disliked growing up in a suppressed environment and how he is still searching for love. I wished the entire performance was as brilliant as that scene, but overall this is still very strong work. 4/5.

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