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The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (2012)

     Timothy Cavendish 

Timothy Cavendish
"I will not be subjected to criminal abuse!"
Played By: Jim Broadbent

A quirky English publisher on the run from the gangster family of his newest and most popular author, Cavendish finds himself in even worse straits when he unwittingly checks himself into Aurora House in an attempt to escape the debt collectors... only to find himself trapped there.

  • Adaptational Heroism: His film incarnation lacks most of his novel counterparts' racism, sexism and complaints about modern life - though he's still got a mouth on him.
  • Bad Liar: When attempting to pay back the Hoggins family, he's shown to be one of these in his more desperate attempts to acquire funds; however, his escape attempts from Aurora House reveal that he's a much better liar when given time to prepare.
    Timothy Cavendish: You heard correctly, Charles Dickens' own original, authentic writing for sixty thousand pounds. I think that's very fair.
    Other Voice over the phone: But our records indicate that the desk is already accounted for by the Dickens House museum.
    Timothy Cavendish: Okay. What about uh...Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's desk?
    [the line clicks dead]
  • Birthmark of Destiny: Although the book leaves it unclear as to whether he has the comet or not. Georgette called it "Timbo's Turd", and Cavendish didn't regard it as a comet, but as he is saying this while deliberately dismissing the concept of reincarnations, it's possible he willfully denies it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He always has a sarcastic quip or two at hand.
  • The Exile: Ends his story effectively outcast from London and writing his new novel from a safe haven. For good measure, he explicitly compares himself to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and assures the reader that (in the novel) he will return one day, (in the film) but unlike Solzhenitsyn, he won't be alone...
  • A Family Affair: The main reason his brother put him in a home is him sleeping with his wife Georgette. Not that they had a good relationship before then, mind you.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Especially in the books, where roughly half his narration seems concerned with how shitty the world is.
  • Jerkass: He's grumpy, selfish, and politically incorrect; and although his most jerkish attributes are left out of the film, he's still a bit of a loudmouth - and it still gets him smacked in the face more than once.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Arrogant and curmudgeonly though he may be, Cavendish still has a few redeeming features. For example, in the book, he expresses admiration for his long-suffering secretary, wondering aloud how she manages to put up with him; while in the film, he goes out of his way to admit a certain degree of self-loathing for his cowardice, and later decides to risk his escape from Aurora house to rescue Mr Meeks.
  • The Lancer: Serves as one during the escape of Aurora House; for all his pride, he's there mainly as support for Ernie.
  • Large Ham: Cavendish rarely does anything without a certain degree of flamboyance, especially when he's pissed off.
  • Lovable Coward: Timothy is pretty open in admitting that he's a coward - both in the face of emotional turmoil and in the face of physical violence. All the same, he still manages to salvage a few awkward moments of heroism by submerging his cowardice long enough to help others.
  • Mean Brit: Rude, caustic, and often missing political correctness by a country mile, though he gets much nicer towards the end.
  • Nerd Glasses: Immediately distinguished by his enormous glasses, especially compared to the other Broadbent roles in the film.
  • Noble Bigot: Not present in the film, and Cavendish is clearly unaware of it, but he's quite racist, sexist, classist, and xenophobic, and clearly expects the reader to agree. For example, he considers "reasonable woman" to be an oxymoron.
  • Oh, Crap!: Prone to these little moments, easily recognized by his wide-eyed gape of horror.
    • This Is Gonna Suck: He does a perfectly deadpan version of this when he and his compatriots can't find the car keys during their escape from Aurora House.
    Cavendish: We're done for.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: His whole storyline serves as this in both the film and the book - although there are notably more horrific things happening in the book, such as Nurse Noakes drugging Cavendish to dementia and blaming it on a stroke.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the first half of the story, he's easily pushed around by the Hoggins brothers and manhandled by the Aurora House staff; in the second, he not only takes part in a scheme to escape, but willingly puts himself at risk to ensure things go according to plan, and actually manages to knock Nurse Noaks to the ground in the getaway.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Had an affair with Denholme's wife Georgette. It's one of the reasons why Denholme sends him to Aurora House in the first place.


Denholme Cavendish
"You can't believe what people will pay to lock up their parents."
Played By: Hugh Grant

Timothy's much wealthier brother, directly responsible for getting Timothy locked up in the retirement house.

  • Big Brother Bully: His relationship with Timothy runs from chilly to downright abusive, though it's not known if their relationship was always this bad.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Shares this trait with his brother; if anything, his sarcasm is even nastier than Timothy's, as is demonstrated during their conversations.
  • Evil Genius: Revealed to be part of Nurse Noakes' Five-Man Band, having not only been a principal investor in Aurora House but also having written the tyrannical rules of the nursing home in the first place.
  • Jerkass: Just look at what he does to his brother. He's also well aware that Noakes is free with physically hitting the residents and does nothing about it; indeed, he's been profiting off it for years.
  • Karma Houdini: Film only; in the book, he dies an ignominious death of a stroke some time after his meeting with Timothy, and it's left up to question whether Denholme was going to leave his brother in the home forever.
  • Mean Brit: Especially in the film, where he proves himself to be complicit in the abuse of the Aurora House residents.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: In the book, he's a former merchant banker, and it's suggested that he's still making money as an investor in the film... and of course, nobody could ever doubt Denholme's morality - or lack thereof.
    Timothy We're brothers! Don't you have a conscience?
    Denholme: I sat on the board of a merchant bank for thirty years.
  • Playing Gertrude: Hugh Grant is playing someone much older than he is.
  • Riches to Rags: In the book, Denholme makes it abundantly clear that he simply doesn't have the money to pay for Timothy's emergency with, having lost it during the collapse of his bank. In the film, however, he's apparently still getting by through investments like Aurora House.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the book, he dies of a stroke following his last meeting with Timothy.


Played By: Ben Whishaw

Denholme's younger wife.

     Nurse Noakes 

Nurse Noakes
"I am Nurse Noakes. You do not wish to cross me!"
Played By: Hugo Weaving

The brutish head nurse at the Aurora House.

  • Battleaxe Nurse: She's very brutish and harsh, and in the book drugs Timothy until he gets a stroke.
  • Big Bad: Of Aurora House.
  • Creepy Monotone: She always speaks in a very flat tone of voice, which is off-putting.
  • Crosscast Role: She's actually Hugo Weaving in drag.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first thing we see of her is digging through Cavendish's stuff, before making off with his keys and warning her newest patient that he'll be forced to eat soap powder if he mouths off again - before promptly smacking the shit out of Cavendish when he doesn't take the hint.
  • Expy: Of Nurse Ratched, whom she's directly compared to in the book.
  • Force Feeding: One common punishment at Aurora House involves having the offender fed soap powder.
  • Jerkass: Mean and insensitive at the best of times, both to residents and to dissenting outsiders. This works against her during the showdown at the pub, when her insistence on recapturing the runaways only antagonizes the mob.
  • Kick the Dog: Smacking Cavendish around on his first day, having rulebreakers caned or forcefed soap powder, and in the book, drugging Cavendish into a stroke.
  • Large and in Charge: She's an intimidatingly large lady.
  • Tranquil Fury: Noakes' eerie monotone actually seems to get even flatter when she's pissed off. Perfect example when she finds Cavendish and the other escapees hiding out at a bar.
    Nurse Noakes: Ohhh.... You are going to be sorry in ways you cannot even imagine!

     "Dusty" Hoggins 

Dermot "Dusty" Hoggins
"Now that's an ending that is flat and inane beyond belief!"
Played By: Tom Hanks

A psychotic English criminal-turned-author, who wants the money Cavendish earned through Hoggins' novel Knuckle Sandwich.

  • Ax-Crazy: He kills a man for giving him a bad review.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Get a bad review? Murder the critic.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Briefly. When he sees the Indian Woman (Halle Berry) in the bar, his attention is focused on her rather than what Cavendish is saying. A nice little hint to when Hoggins and The Woman meet again as Zachry and Meronym.
  • Gayngster: Book only. Timothy Cavendish, while talking about Knuckle Sandwich's runaway success, mentions that "the homosexuals bought it out of tribal loyalty". Knuckle Sandwich also contained a description of a certain stall in a men's room at King's Cross where a blowjob can always be obtained for five quid.
  • Hot-Blooded: He's very eager and loud-mouthed, and flings a man off the top of a building for an extremely petty reason.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: Has them, alluding to his criminal past.
  • Large Ham: I don't give a fuck what happens when I'm dead; I want people to buy me book NOW!
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-universe. See Villain with Good Publicity.
  • Only in It for the Money: And in spite of Timothy's Moby Dick analogy, Dermot doesn't give a fuck about what happens when he's dead.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Count how many times he swears in his scenes. You might lose track.
    • Between this and his murder of the critic, he's probably the reason why the film got a 15 rating (he's even mentioned on the DVD with his Country Matters noted as "strong language, once very strong").
  • Villain with Good Publicity: His book starts selling like hotcakes after killing the critic and Hoggins becomes a "cult hero" to the public. Doesn't stop the police from putting his ass in prison, though.

     Mr Meeks 

Mr. Meeks
"I know! I know!"

Played By: Robert Fyfe

One of the "inmates" at Aurora House, and a member of Cavendish's escape party who seems unable to say anything apart from "I know".

  • Catchphrase: "I know! I know!"
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Only being able to say "I know, I know!" is only the tip of the iceberg.
  • 11th-Hour Ranger: See O.O.C. Is Serious Business.
  • The Load: In the escape of Aurora House.At First.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Cavendish is making a run for it, Mr. Meeks says "Don't leave me here!" Cavendish gives a look bewilderment after hearing him saying more than what he usually says.
    • Later, at the bar, he yells at the top of his lungs to all the patrons in the bar for help against Nurse Noakes and the owners of the car. They happily oblige.
  • Nice Hat: Wears one.



Played By: Amanda Walker

An "inmate" at Aurora House and a member of Cavendish's escape party.

  • The Chick: Takes a more subdued role in the escape, either by stealing Nurse Judd's mobile phone or by keeping the owners of the getaway car distracted.
  • Cool Old Lady: An amiable old lady with a gift for pickpocketing and aiding escape attempts.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The only woman among the four escapees.



Played By: Ralph Riach

An inmate at Aurora House, and a member of Cavendish's escape party.

  • Balding of Awesome: It's covered by a cap during his escape, but it's clear he doesn't have much hair left on his head.
  • Cool Old Guy: The real hero of the escape attempt, and one of the more capable members of the group.
  • Grumpy Old Man: In the book, he's quite surly and stubborn, but ultimately goodhearted.
  • The Hero: Though he also doubles as The Smart Guy in the escape.
  • Nice Hat: Wears a cap during and after the escape.
  • We Need a Distraction: Stages one of these with Cavendish by pretending to get into a fight over stolen pudding.



Played By: Jim Sturgess

The leader of the angry Scotsmen in the pub where Cavendish and his escape party make a stop.

  • Badass Boast: When Mr. Meeks expalins his need for help against Nurse Noakes, he gives us this.
    Highlander: Alright pal... We won't let ya down.
  • Berserk Button: The English.
  • Deus ex Machina: He helps defeat Nurse Noakes in the massive brawl.
  • Hot-Blooded: He's very eager to pick a fight.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Directly appealed to as such, in fact, which works in saving the day.

     The Hoggins Brothers 

Mozza, Jarvis & Eddie Hoggins

Played By: Niall Grieg Fulton, Louis Dempsey & Martin Docherty

Dermot's vicious brothers who come to Cavendish's home to collect their money.


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