Christopher Eccleston did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Derek Bentley in Let Him Have It.
Christopher Eccleston gives his debut feature film performance, although the film's aesthetic feels closer to a TV film but I digress. This performance though has the chance to depict rather tragic story of this central real life character as this young man struggling with his very existence. Eccleston is effective in the role in realizing Derek's state of being. He doesn't overplay this rather finding the stunted nature in this certain direct manner of speaking and reacting to people. Eccleston finds this narrow way of Derek of really in the way he even looks at people. There is this obvious focus that Eccleston depicts showing that Derek needs to put this certain extra energy into interacting just like a typical person. Eccleston finds this though not quite perfect and as this show that he feels almost average yet not quite. There is the right type of struggle in every moment of this showing Derek as having difficulty navigating just the normal day to day, and even then he realizes as a clear struggle. Eccleston's work is tasked even further though as Derek is not only troubled by his mental difficulties, but also physical ones as an epileptic. Eccleston to his credit is terrific in the moments of showing the fits, which could led to some wild overacting very easily. Eccleston though performs them believably while again realizing the precarious state that is Derek's life.
Eccleston, despite these clear problems, nicely doesn't always overwhelm his performance with them. He shows these moments with his family as rather sweet by showing the simple humanity even within the struggle. He is never simply a series of tics, but realizes the man within it all. He creates the right pathos through those interactions with his father, mother and sister where we can see the potential for some growth or at least some comfort. Eccleston offers the right warmth in these interactions to provide the basis for some idea of a future that are rather moving through how genuine they feel. This is against his interactions with his "friends" who are petty criminals, who frequently abuse Derek's nature. Eccleston is very good in these interactions as well though by making the right yearning in the interactions as his delivery is that of a simple man aiming to please, and in turn receive some sort of acceptance from these people. This becomes problematic though when he is pulled into a criminal endeavor, which again Eccleston excels with by conveying Derek's attempt to comprehend what is going on throughout. Eccleston though offers an earnestness and a confusion. In that he shows the man trying to be part of it, but also not really wholly aware of what he is part. When the crime turns violent, Eccleston is rather moving in realizing just the mess of the man.
Eccleston even captures the right ambiguity in the specific delivery of the titular line that could either mean for his friend to shoot the cop, or for his friend to drop the gun. Eccleston rightly balances the line by delivering it as this moment of sheer fear that could be either interpreted as plea, or the reaction of a muddled mind. Eventually the crime leaves a police officer dead with Derek and the actual murderer, a minor, facing punishment. The murderer though cannot be executed due to his age leaving Derek as receiving the full brunt of the wrath of the judicial system. The film rather rushes this period of the story however Eccleston manages to find some of the tragedy by portraying that even as he faces death Derek still is struggling to understand what exactly is going on. It is moving by reinforcing the man just trying very hard to figure what is happening right down to the execution itself where he has very little time even to breakdown because of that. This is a good performance by Christopher Eccleston however the film doesn't entirely allow Eccelston to fully sink his teeth into. The film never quite gives the time to Eccleston to truly make this a heartbreaking portrait of this man that seemed quite possible given the subject matter. Eccleston's performance is good, but the full potential of it seems somewhat unrealized by the film's underwhelming approach to the material.