Sunday, September 09, 2007

Hallam Foe (18)

Directed by David Mackenzie, Written by Peter Jinks (novel), Ed Whitmore and David Mackenzie (screenplay)

Should adaptations stay loyal to the book, or must the director’s first priority be making sure the film flows properly? It’s a question that’s taxed the brains of many handwringing reviewers with nothing significant to worry about. But why bring ‘morality’ into it? A film is either successful or it isn’t, and the director, writer and viewer will all have a different idea of what success means. Personally, I think this film isn’t particularly successful, because the most intriguing traits of the title role are barely hinted at, in what - at only ninety-four minutes - is quite a short movie.

Hallam Foe (Jamie Bell) is a seventeen-year-old who is struggling to come to terms with both the death of his mother three years ago and adolescence. Now his rich architect dad (Ciarán Hinds) has got re-married, Hallam plays out a fantasy life hiding in a treehouse and spying on his step mum (Claire Forlani) plus some other villagers from the rooftops of their Scottish country pile. Eventually the interesting but poorly developed lead character runs away for the bright lights of Edinburgh, and gets a job at a hotel because the head of human resources (Sophia Myles) looks like his mother. Soon he’s spying on her too, and so the film drones on towards it pseudo-Freudian conclusion.

There are some saving graces. Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography is certainly evocative, while Bell and Myles have excellent chemistry together. But in many ways Hallam Foe feels a lot like Asylum, Mackenzie’s last film, which had ambitions to be dark, disturbing, and deep, but never got further than the most shallow and superficial psychology.

Still, it might be a decent book.

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