Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

A wash of gold illuminates a couple in a bedroom. "I like your imagination," she (Rachel Blanchard) says after he (Noam Jenkins) suggests that he can feel the baby kicking in her belly. "This is like a dream," she will say later when the same scene is revisited.

She is not wrong. The soft focus and lustrous hues mark what we are seeing as unreal, as something from the realms of the imagination – or of a movie – and, indeed, these scenes of the woman either sharing a moment of intimacy with her partner, or else being interviewed by an Israeli security agent (Yuval Daniel), are dreamy composites, as teenaged Simon (Devon Bostick) superimposes slippery memories of his long-dead parents onto imaginary reconstructions of an (apparently) unrelated news story about a foiled terrorist plot.

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For the last eight years, Simon has lived with his tow-truck-driving uncle Tom (Scott Speedman), while trying to understand the circumstances in which his adored violinist mother and more shadowy father died, piecing together what happened from the stories of his bitter grandfather Morris (Kenneth Walsh). When Simon's class is asked to translate a real-life account of a Lebanese terrorist who hid explosives in the luggage of his own pregnant girlfriend, Simon rewrites the story with his father cast as the terrorist, his mother as the unwitting carrier, and himself as the baby that might never have been born.

Sabine (Arsinée Khanjian), an eccentric Lebanese émigrée who teaches both French and drama at the school, encourages Simon to present his essay to the class as though it were his genuine autobiography, and to develop it further as a performance piece. As this half-true story about an unrealised violent event leaks onto the internet, it proves just as explosive as any bomb, sending shockwaves through Simon's immediate circle of friends to a much broader on-line community - until finally, after the smoke has cleared, an unexpected reality emerges that confronts Simon and Tom with some combustible home truths.

If Atom Egoyan's latest film Chloe (2009), as both a remake based on somebody else's screenplay and an increasingly shrill and implausible erotic thriller, is the closest that he has ever come to a mainstream movie, the ambiguous, elliptical Adoration, made just one year earlier, is more like vintage Egoyan, and is the better for it. Not only does it feature the sort of sinuous, non-chronological narrative structure, twisted family dynamics, and thematic concern with identity, substitution and masquerade, all of which featured in his previous films like Next Of Kin (1984), Family Viewing (1987), Speaking Parts (1989), Exotica (1994), The Sweet Hereafter (1997) and Where The Truth Lies (2005), but any one of these titles would have been just as suitable as Adoration to encapsulate the new film's diverse subject matter.

Seamlessly marrying the personal and the political, Adoration plots a labyrinthine course through such millennial issues as the alienating impact of technology, the elusive and subjective nature of truth, the human need to invest objects with meaning, the politics of otherness, the ethics of terrorism, the divisions of religion, the fluidity of history, and the persistence of both anger and love – but it is also about cinema itself, which, like the online conference calls to which Simon is so addicted, fills a flat screen with images and icons that may be rooted in fiction, but still have the power both to move viewers, and to lead them to a transcendent kind of truth.

Or, to quote the cab driver (Domenic Cuzzocrea) who has just eaten Tom's packed lunch: "That was delicious – what kind of baloney was that?" Adoration is a meatily complex affair, its layered contents making up a whole no less satisfying or real for being appropriated from someone else. There are lies here aplenty, but with such rich performances, such dense storytelling, such a melancholic string score, and - as the perfect counterpart to the digital world that Simon sometimes inhabits - such majestically framed 35mm photography, Egoyan's film shows the sort of imagination that is not just to be liked, but to be adored, earning itself that ultimate accolade: worth seeing more than once.

Reviewed on: 27 Jan 2010
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An orphaned boy reimagines the mysterious death of his parents as a terrorist atrocity.
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Director: Atom Egoyan

Writer: Atom Egoyan

Starring: Scott Speedman, Rachel Blanchard, Kenneth Welsh, Devon Bostick, Aaron Poole, Dominic Cuzzocrea, Katie Boland, Noam Jenkins, Arsinée Khanjian, Geraldine O'Rawe, Duane Murray

Year: 2008

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada


London 2008

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