Hallam Foe

Hallam Foe


Reviewed by: Dylan Matthew

In a brief but haunting image toward the end of this film, a brilliantly white swan moves across the surface of a dark, forbidding loch surrounded by steep, brooding hills. It seemed to sum up both the film and the titular character nicely - a lone wild creature traversing a hostile environment. For this is Hallam Foe and his journey, a luminous, wayward spirit moving through the dark recesses of his own psyche amid a hostile environment.

This is not the romantic comedy you might be expecting from the publicity machine surrounding this film. There is romance and there is comedy but Hallam Foe is a reasonably dark, reasaonably complex psychological tale - a quasi Oedipal drama given just a light dusting of magical realism as well as a touch of a film noir detective flick.

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It's an unconventional coming of age story with a wonderfully nuanced and sympathetic portrayal from Jamie Bell whose handsome boyish features work for both the child and the adult aspects of of Foe’s rites of passage.

Based on Peter Jinks novel of the same name, Hallam is the teenage son of a once wealthy architect (Ciarán Hinds) living in grand rural surroundings. Unable to come to terms with the death of his mother in seemingly suspicious circumstances, Foe rejects his father’s second wife (Claire Forlani) and retreats to the refuge of an impressive treehouse in the grounds of the family mansion. Alienating himself from the world he partly turns into a wild and feral creature, spying on humanity from afar rather than engaging in real human contact.

Suspicions over his stepmother’s possible involvement in his mother’s death coupled with a trademark stamp from the director (a violent confrontation that converts into sexual release) results in Hallam partly being thrown out and partly exiling himself as he (almost literally) flees the nest and travels to Edinburgh where he arrives penniless. After a brief misunderstanding and pursuit by suspicious police, Hallam puts his Spider-Man like skills to good use finding refuge amid the stairwells, tunnels, service passages and lockups that lead to the city’s rooftops.

From his crows nest above he soon spies Kate (Sophia Myles) a doppleganger for his mother. Startled, intrigued and perhaps hoping she might actually be mum, he follows this vision into the bowels of the hotel where she works and lands himself a job as a dishwasher. A relationship gradually unfolds as Hallam learns both to survive in the ‘real world’ and his own as he pursues his spying habits studying Kate through her windows during nocturnal prowling missions.

He’s part pervert and part guardian angel and the deeper he involves himself in her life, the more he unravels his own psyche as he heads toward a difficult redemption. It’s a beautifully realised and moving portrait of a troubled soul coming to terms with his own demons. As he blossoms, he discovers that everyone else he meets is just as twisted and as troubled as he is.

This is quite a Hitchcockian affair with echoes of Vertigo in his obsessional following of his mother’s image, Rear Window with his nightly stakeouts and peeping tom persona. There’s even a hint of The 39 Steps in a striking location coup for the film as Hallam’s homeless digs and stakeout base is the interior of the hotel’s giant clock tower.

It might sound somewhat twisted and its one of those ideas that could have been laughably silly but it is credit to director David Mackenzie and his production team that it’s pulled off with conviction and panache. There’s some impressive camerawork (including a dizzying ‘wow - how did they do that?' crane shot) and it is peppered with some great moments of near slapstick comedy, a terrific soundtrack and Jamie Bell’s perfectly judged performance and charismatic persona holds it together throughout. If anything, it made me want to climb trees again - and that’s something.

Reviewed on: 17 Aug 2007
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A teenage misfit struggles to come to terms with his mum's death.
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Chris **1/2

Director: David Mackenzie

Writer: Peter Jinks, David Mackenzie, Ed Whitmore

Starring: Jamie Bell, Sophia Myles, Ciarán Hinds, Jamie Sives, Maurice Roëves, Ewen Bremner, Claire Forlani, Ruthie Milne, John Paul Lawler, Lucy Holt

Year: 2007

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, IMDb UK section


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