Hallam Foe

There's nothing like a little Oedipal obsession to lighten the mood. No, really. In the hands of director David Mackenzie and, particularly, via the performance of Jamie Bell, the bizarre tale of Hallam Foe somehow manages to be deeply twisted and life-affirming — even as it skirts the Odeipus issue, flirts with obsession and throws in some extreme voyeurism.

Bell leaves any Billy Elliot residue well and truly behind in the title role, a deeply troubled young Scot who spies on his neighbours and point blank accuses his new stepmother (Forlani) of murdering his beloved mum in order to get to the Foe family fortune and his dad ( Hinds). When his sister leaves home, it's the end of Hallam's obvious family tie and as a result of that — and an unexpected fumble with said stepmum — he flees the family estate and winds up in Edinburgh where, wouldn't you know it, he runs into Kate (Myles). And Kate bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Mrs Foe. Thus begins a strange tale of hotel work, rooftop voyeurism and romantic comedy. No. Really.

To call Hallam Foe unique or unusual is to barely scratch the surface. It's a very bold attempt at something enormously different and, for the most part, it carries it off with some style, wit and poignancy. It perhaps falls down a little on the cod psychology but, the fact that it pulls it all around to finish in such wonderfully uplifiting style is a remarkable achievement. And most of that is down to Bell, who manages to make this strange, potentially creepy character so bloody likeable. It's a stunning performance which, combined with Mackenzie's sympathetic direction and a kick arse soundtrack, should see Hallam Foe take its well-deserved place on most Top Tens for 2007. It's certainly on mine.
SECOND OPINION | Stuart O'Connor ***
This is a film I so wanted to love. And there are plenty of reasons to love it. Jamie Bell gives his best performance since Billy Elliott; Sophia Myles is, as always, drop-dead gorgous and I-dare-you-not-to-fall-in-love-with-me alluring; and we need to see a lot more movies made in the beautiful, gothic Edinburgh. It's got a terrific soundtrack, is gut-achingly funny, beautifully shot and well directed. But ...

I guess it's the subject matter and how it's handled that had me squirming in my seat a little. Now I'm no prude, as anyone who knows me will attest, but a story where the main character spies on his neighbours having sex, shags his stepmum then heads off to the big city where he finds a woman who's the spitting image of his dead mother, spies on her having sex and then shags her too is not the sort of thing I reckon the average cinemagoer is going to be terribly comfortable with. What bugged me the most though is that Bell's performance makes what is at its core a pretty freaky, unlikable character so damned lovable I felt a little dirty after the film ended. And the fact that a dirty little peeping Tom is ostensibly rewarded by getting jiggy with the lovely Ms Myles made me more than a little annoyed. So it's not a perfect film by a long shot. But it's still impossible to hate, damn it...

Official Site
Hallam Foe at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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