Cyril Cusack did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sam in The Homecoming.
Cyril Cusack is rather unique character actor from the period as his even in small roles there is usually something a bit different based on his atypical screen presence. This is a particularly effective quality for his role here as Sam the brother of the family patriarch Max (Paul Rogers). Cusack from the start makes Sam standout against the curmudgeon Max, Max's equally miserable son Lenny (Ian Holm), and his other seemingly stunted other son Joey (Terence Rigby). Cyril Cusack in his first scene comes in with Sam discussing his success as a chauffeur do to his refusal to impress himself on others. Cusack carries himself as the proper chauffeur through much of the scene. He has such a pleasant smile and apparent likability as a man who seems to aim to please. Cusack makes Sam seem like just such a gentle soul, unlike the other men, as he so kindly speaks with his nephews and his brother, taking such a quiet pride in his apparent abilities to please his customers as a chauffeur.
Cusack's sunny demeanor earns an impression since he always feels a bit separate for the rest of his downtrodden kin. Cusack does not use this for a simplification of a character, nor does he show that Sam is in some way blissfully unaware. Cusack instead shows this to essentially be a defense mechanism of sorts, a fashioned state for Sam to always try to keep a smile on his face. Cusack makes sense of this by how we see his brother and nephew Lenny in particular who rarely have anything to say that isn't a complaint or a put down of another. Cusack shows the jovial front of Sam as his way of trying to stay beyond the rest of his house hold, and it alludes to this long history. Sam after all has been part of it longer than the rest and Cusack shows this as this built conditioning in Sam to deal with his often intolerable brother. Cusack goes further in revealing Sam's relationship to his brother even when smiling. Cusack does so much with just eyes even at times as every glance to his brother has these quiet hints of disdain towards him, and shows that Sam does not ignore his brother's severe character flaws.
I love the way Cusack's performance is one that cuts through the nonsense in a way even though he shows Sam technically having a personal shield. Cusack does this with such an ease though such as when Max goes off on his stories about the film, and Cusack's reactions say so much through just subtle facial suggestions. There is a moment where Max is going on and on, and Cusack creates the sense of knowing of a man who has heard all the nonsense before. He only occasionally gets into verbal spats, which Cusack reinforces the idea that Sam has his own way with things. There is a moment where he defends himself for example but Cusack portrays this as merely a lapse for him. As he briefly makes his case, but Cusack again in just in his eyes conveys Sam is just quickly remembering who he's dealing with giving sense to his instant departure from the conversation. Other times though Cusack's terrific in showing Sam managing to get in his own snipes in. Cusack carefully delivers these lines though in that jovial way showing that Sam is getting to enjoy insulting his brother, but making it so it basically goes over the man's head. Now Cusack, despite having only a few lines, is pivotal in the last act of the film when the family, besides Sam, decide to steal away the last brother, Teddy(Michael Jayston)'s, wife Ruth (Vivien Merchant). Cusack gives the most cinematic performance in the film since he never is merely there, his work suggests he knows the camera will pick up anything he does as long as it's onscreen. Cusack uses this to offer the only empathetic man as Cusack is rather moving by showing that Sam is so quietly horrified by the terrible idea the rest of the family has to steal the wife and make her work as a whore. Cusack, wholly in the background, builds towards Sam finally saying something fully without a facade in a broken attempt to warn Ruth about his family's intentions in a very effective moment. Sam though collapses seemingly dead, though he is said to be breathing. Cusack allows for an interpretation of the moment by how he builds towards the short breakdown. Cusack's work suggests that while not quite physically finished, Sam is emotionally finished with dealing with his horrible family. This is a brilliant performance by Cyril Cusack as with such ease he realizes his character in such vivid detail, adding a real substance to the history of the film, as well as giving a quietly poignant portrayal of a semi decent man entrapped in a deranged family.