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    Mister Foe

    Spy game

    Grumpy Glaswegians going at it are once again the focus of David ("Young Adam") Mackenzie's bleak and dreary — but not wholly uninteresting — drama.


    Hallam Foe likes to watch. Through binoculars, through the city's cracked clock face, through a flat's rooftop skylight — this post-pubescent voyeur likes to witness, unobserved, the comings and goings of his unsuspecting neighbors.

    Written and directed by: David Mackenzie.
    Produced by: Gillian Berrie.
    Adapted from Hallam Foe by: Peter Kinks.
    Cast: Jamie Bell, Sophia Myles, Ciarán Hinds, Claire Forlani, Ewen Bremner.
    Cinematography: Giles Nuttgens.
    Edited by: Colin Monie.
    Production design by: Tom Sayer.
    Art direction by: Caroline Grebbell.
    Costumes by: Trisha Biggar.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Following the tragic death of his mother (the coroner ruled it a suicidal drowning but Hallam suspects otherwise, foul play on the part of his conniving yet not unattractive step-mother), the angst-ridden teenager has taken to his tree house, built for him by his Pa, to watch young lovers making out below, or to spy on his father and new wife themselves, their intimate moments unsuspectingly paraded across Hallam's viewfinder.

    High atop his treetop sanctuary Hallam whiles away his dismal, depressing days, a poster-sized blow-up of his mother's face peering down approvingly at the young man who daubs his face and chest with scarlet lipstick, an emboldened warrior preparing for the hunt.

    Mister Foe  
    A confusing, erotic run-in with his stepmom forces Hallam to flee the crumbling ancestral estate to the unfamiliar confines of the big city, where his youthful charm and ebullience quickly secure him work as a kitchen porter in a swank Glasgow hotel. Attracted to the hotel's personnel manager (who just so happens to bear a striking resemblance to his dearly departed mother), Hallam begins to stalk Kate Breck after hours, following her home, climbing her drainpipe, and watching her, undetected, from his rooftop retreat. Sometimes she's alone, other times she's physically engaged with another, and Hallam's Freudian peeping Tom doesn't miss a thing.

      There's nothing particularly new or exceptional about "Mister Foe," an earthy coming-of-age drama with pretensions of something grander, but Bell and Myles are worth watching, even fully clothed.
    In time Hallam will come to form more than a mere platonic relationship with his pretty professional employer before returning to the country to settle a familial score.

    David MacKenzie's "Mister Foe" is another bleak, dreary, but not uninteresting Scottish drama tinged with sexual paranoia/excitement. Like MacKenzie's previous film, "Young Adam," which starred Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton in varying positions, "Mister Foe"'s protagonists couple at random, almost as if to simply get out of the rain. The film is based on Peter Jinks's novel "Hallam Foe"; apparently Magnolia Pictures didn't think American audiences were quite sophisticated enough to handle that title.

    As Hallam, Jamie Bell (best known Stateside for his role as the working class ballet dancer "Billy Elliot") projects the right amount of innocence and unchecked sexuality his character needs. He's brittle and forceful yet naïve to the world around him, a symptom of his sheltered upbringing. Kate, played by Sophia Myles ("Tristan + Isolde"'s Isolde), is herself self-assured and confident but her relationship with a married co-worker preys on Hallam, prompting action. Ciarán Hinds and Claire Forlani play the parental units efficiently and effectively.

    Mister Foe  
    There's nothing particularly new or exceptional about "Mister Foe," an earthy coming-of-age drama with pretensions of something grander, but Bell and Myles are worth watching, even fully clothed. But it says something about your film's overall tone when not one but two bit players are credited as "Grumpy Glaswegian."

    OCTOBER 19, 2008

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