2008, R, 100 min. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Starring Devon Bostick, Arsinée Khanjian, Scott Speedman, Rachel Blanchard, Noam Jenkins, Kenneth Welsh.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 12, 2009
Egoyan’s latest, Adoration, marks the great Canadian filmmaker’s return to the kind of intimate drama he strayed from with his last couple of efforts (the history-rectifying meditation on the Armenian genocide, Ararat, and the off-putting mystery thriller, Where the Truth Lies). His usual concerns with the subjective nature of truth and the fragmentation of time and perspective are all evident, as are the extraordinary intellectual ambitions he channels into his narrative. Egoyan’s return to form is welcome, nevertheless Adoration adds up to less than we might have hoped for. At heart, the film is a story about Simon (Bostick), an orphaned high school student who lives with his uncle Tom (Speedman) and is trying to make sense of his family history. His parents, Rachel (Blanchard) and Sami (Jenkins), died together in a car accident, which his dying grandfather (Welsh) insists was caused by Sami driving intentionally into oncoming traffic. Simon has grown up hating his father for murdering his mother. A school assignment, a translation exercise from his French teacher, Sabine (Khanjian), inspires him to transpose his imagined notion of the relationship between his parents into that of a foiled terrorist who planted a bomb in the luggage of his unsuspecting, airplane-bound, pregnant girlfriend. Encouraged by his teacher to flesh out his essay, Simon assumes the identity of the grown child of the pregnant woman and posts his essay on the Internet where it becomes chat-room fodder for one and all. Meanwhile, a woman in a burqua comes to Simon and Tom’s home and engages them in a curious dialogue and steals a Christmas tree ornament. And Sabine is fired for having ignited the Internet hubbub, and she eventually discloses information to Simon and Tom that will alter their perspectives on the past and, consequently, the future. It’s all too much for one story, which also has too heavy a dependence on coincidence and forced secrecy. The story’s contrivances are too near the surface and yet they leave too many aspects unquestioned. The film’s slow reveal almost seems like too little too late, especially when there seems to be no realistic need to forestall the information that can otherwise only be viewed as a narrative conceit. Still, Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) remains one of our top filmmakers to engage in a cinema of ideas, a cinema with provocative powers, and for that alone, any new movie of his is worth our participation.