John Hurt did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Timothy John Evans in 10 Rillington Place.
John Hurt plays Timothy Evans who with his wife and infant daughter move into the top room of a house which they rent unfortunately from John Christie. One of the great strengths of the film is its strive for a realism throughout the film including depiction of Timothy Evans's relationship with his wife Beryl. Their marriage is made out to be far from ideal as both find themselves rather troubled by their poor financial state and the fact that Beryl finds herself once again pregnant. John Hurt plays Timothy as a fairly average man, with somewhat below average education and intelligence perhaps, and give one of the most authentic performances ever given in playing just a rather undistinguished sort.
Hurt is great in making the relationship between Timothy and Beryl very real and making Timothy a man who is clearly far from perfect. Hurt, in the some relatively brief moments gives a very vivid look into the married life of Timothy Evans. Hurt brings us the lovely moments of when they are just starting out in their new place or when he is on a romantic date with his wife. These scenes are key to Hurt's portrayal as Hurt does show that Timothy does love his wife and does have some good times with her. In the scenes of their fighting though Hurt lets us look into any key hole of a man fighting with his wife with all the anger, screaming and bitterness played so naturally by him. Hurt importantly makes Tim's frustrations just as ordinary as they come.
One of the qualities of Timothy is simply that he is not all that bright. As I've said before playing a not overly intelligent character is challenge as they simply can seem to give a stupid performance that does not realize the character, or base the character solely on the mannerisms to prove the character's lack of intelligence. John Hurt of course does neither of things and he makes Timothy's level of intelligence a subtle but important facet in his character. He is not dumb in that he acts stupid as played by Hurt, he acts like a normal person most of the time, but what Hurt shows so well is that Timothy has to take time to really understand things in an entirely concrete fashion. Hurt's exceptional portrayal of this quality becomes especially important late in the film.
Timothy's nature though comes earlier into plays as well in a few very important moments all of which Hurt knocks out of the part. In one scene we see Timothy telling a tall tale at a pub although he is acting like it is an authentic one. Timothy is lying but Hurt plays it well by making the story as a simple joy for Timothy nothing more than that. He might even believe it in a way, but it is all just a bit of an escape for him. Timothy's nature comes into play again when his wife wants an abortion which Christie says he will be able to do. Hurt does well in showing the mixed frustrations in Timothy as he can't support it as he sees as wrong at a very base level. When Timothy agrees to it though, Hurt makes it believable as again his change is a simple agreement with Hurt showing, once again, that Timothy has not thought it threw completely.
After Timothy agrees, things take a turn for a worse as Christie murders Beryl although he lies to Timothy telling him it was due to the one in ten chance that the abortion could cause his wife to die. John Hurt is so good in these scenes it becomes rather hard to watch the film. The moment in which Timothy examines his wife is especially heartbreaking due to Hurt as he only suddenly notices that she is in fact dead rather then merely being injured. Hurt so naturally portrays the progression of grief and confusion as Timothy can barely understand what is happened. This is such emotionally draining performance to watch because Hurt is so honest in these scenes because the grief he portrays in Timothy stays there right with him as something he obviously could never forget.
Timothy has no time to grieve, so to speak, as Christie tries to instruct him that something must be done to cover their tracks. Hurt continues to be outstanding in his portrayal of the complexities that come to Timothy. Timothy is not to bright and Hurt shows Timothy is simply overwhelmed by the events to the point that he cannot even comprehend the situation. Hurt brings to life the complete scatter of emotions that Timothy is. There is confusion, extreme sadness, guilt, and disbelief all there in Hurt's performance. The way Christie is able to convince Timothy not to call the police, and to even to leave his daughter in the hands of Christie is made entirely believable by Hurt. Hurt shows that Timothy s not able to see anything clearly in his state and that is what leads him to follow Christie's orders.
Timothy, after following Christie's suggestions briefly, does give himself to police although attempts to lie to keep Christie out of it at first. Again Hurt makes Timothy's actions wholly believable as a result of both his simple nature and his troubled mental state. They are also made so powerful because of again how genuine he is as Timothy deals with his own shame and condition and tries to confess to the police what has happened. These scenes are truly disheartening by John Hurt's performance because he does convincingly destroy Timothy's credibility to the police, all the while though he is exceedingly moving in the investigation scenes because we know he is telling the truth. The moment Timothy hears of his daughters fate is absolutely heart wrenching with Hurt's perfect reaction that realizes the horrible sorrow in Timothy but also his final understanding that it was Christie who did it.
Timothy John Evans must be one of the most unfortunate men ever depicted onscreen as not only is his family murdered he is put on trial for their murder with the sentence being death by hanging. All of the final scenes with Hurt are terrific in creating the tragedy of Timothy Evans. Hurt still leaves Timothy a simple man he is even as he is pleading in his life. Hurt is incredibly powerful as he keeps Timothy of his nature as tries just to tell everyone that it was Christie who did it not him in his very plan way, as he is man who does not know how to plead his innocence. 10 Rillington Place is brutal in its keeping with the facts of the real life story and because of that the end of Timothy is quick and vicious, and only made more more painful by Hurt still showing the disbelief and sadness still in Timothy. This is an outstanding achievement by John Hurt as he gives a flawless portrait of a real man who was the victim of evil.