Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Grieving, Differently

Hallam Foe
Directed by David Mackenzie
Starring: Jamie Bell, Sophia Myles, Jamie Sives, Ciaran Hinds, Claire Forlani
Grade: B+

From the moment Hallam Foe launches himself from a treehouse, half-naked, into the path of a fornicating couple, we know that this boy is a lil' off the rails. When he has sex with his stepmother in a treehouse, that's another indication. And when he spies a woman bearing a resemblance to his dead mother and proceeds to place her at the centre of his voyeuristic attention, his symptoms become serious. But Hallam Foe knows better than to detail its subjects' symptomatic plague in this listly, throwaway fashion, instead crafting a character that's largely believeable, despite his name aptly underlining his irregular habits.

Hallam's dead mother forms the basis of our initial impression of him. This guy has baggage. We're not sure of him. He's not sure of himself. But for a story that, on the bare bones of things, is a familiar evolution of a lost boy and his search for closure, Hallam Foe sails past any ocular buoys with fresh characterisation and interesting ideas about relationships. It treats Hallam as an adolescent adapting to the wild: eager, brave, rash, naive, emotionally cautious and growingly individual. His relationship with lookalike Kate (Sophia Myles) indicative of this, his initial decision to focus on her a result of maternal longing, only to have this altered drastically as her sexuality and failure to commit becomes an immediate opposition to this.

David Mackenzie and Ed Whitmore's thoughtfully-written screenplay constructs a character with richness, and curiously one that hardly realises he is grieving. Hallam's ability to watch and retreat is helpful and knowledgeable, but as the film so deftly reveals, can be a deceptive learning experience. Admirably, grief is used as a volatile fixture of his otherwise uncertain personality, and this is how the film is able to soften the tokenness of his warring relationship with a rather thinly-coated villain, and his quirky urges to don face paint.

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