Friday, August 31, 2007

HALLAM FOE - a puzzling little film

HALLAM FOE is an odd, puzzling film and I'm not convinced it added up to much in the end. However, cinephiles will want to see it for Jamie Bell's brave central performance as the eponymous troubled teen.

Hallam is a seventeen year-old boy who is convinced that his mother's suicide was engineered by his step-mother (Claire Forlani with a perfect English accent.) Since the death, Hallam has retreated into his tree-house, snooping on people from afar and nurturing his paranoid delusions. Confronted by the (apparently) Macchiavellian step-mother, Hallam flees to Edinburgh. There, he takes a menial job in a hotel in order to get close to a young woman (Sophia Myles) who happens to look like his dead mother.

The movie is strong on performances and the look is suitably sinister and grim. Hallam comes across as conflicted and borderline insane - but also as charming and warm. I really cared about what happened to him. This is in sharp contrast to writer-director, David Mackenzie's, earlier film, YOUNG ADAM, which I found to be irredeemably bleak and alienating.

Where this film lost me was in the writing. The motivations of key characters seemed a bit random or insufficiently fleshed out. I never got a grip on what the dad (Ciaran Hinds) was up to for a start. And the Sophia Myles character was bizarre - in a good way I think - because instead of running screaming at the idea of having dated her stalker she actually embraces his weirdness. It's a strangely optimistic thought. Apart from all these substantive issues, some of the scenes just don't work. There's a particularly excruciating pre-coital scene in a hotel suite between Hallam and his girlfriend, for instance.

Still, it's another great performance from Jamie Bell and proves that he is maturing into an interesting actor who is willing to take on challenging roles.

HALLAM FOE played Berlin, where it won the Silver Bear, and Edinburgh 2007 and is currently on release in the UK and Germany. It opens in Swizterland on October 4th, in Belgium on October 24th and in the Netherlands on January 17th 2008.

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