Guest of Honour

One of the most recognized and celebrated Canadian directors working today is Atom Egoyan. So when he releases a film people sit up and take notice. His will never be of the type which will draw many into the theatres rather he makes smaller rather intimate films. Quiet, for the most part, yet full of punch. A man who seems to be attracted to observing human behaviour in the small moments. Not needing special effects and car chases to tell his tales.

Once again Egoyan brings us the story of a man. A man who most would not even remember. He is that average. Yet to Egoyan infintissimably interesting. He delves into the quieter moments to show another character in turmoil. Someone who has gone through something, but seems unable to work through it.

Father-daughter. Sometimes it is a daddy’s little girl type relationship while others it is fraught with misunderstandings. The latter seems to be the case for Jim (David Thewlis – Wonder Woman, The Theory of Everything) and Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira – from television’s Locke & Key). Not a pair who see eye to eye. This is exacerbated by the fact that Veronica is in prison and seems to want to be there.

Jim does not understand, so he keeps trying to get her out on early release. Attempting to figure out, in between working as a restaurant health inspector and taking care of his daughter’s pet rabbit, what actually went on to prove her innocence. Veronica wants no part of this. She believes she is where she deserves to be.

We see a recreation of what happened leading up to Veronica’s arrest. She was working in a high school and was the director of the school orchestra. They went around performing and were driven by a bus driver, Mike (Rossif Sutherland – Hyena Road, High Life). Something happens which involves Veronica, Mike and a teenage boy named Walter (Gage Munroe – Brotherhood, One Week). It results in Veronica’s incarceration.

As a filmmaker Atom Egoyan is often seen as polarizing. Some will love his style while others will dismiss it as pompous or too cerebral. This is another film which will do exactly that. No one will leave saying “meh.” Rather you will either think it is a load of poop or love it wishing he would make films more often.

Egoyan seems to have some sort of preoccupation with bus drivers. Here and The Sweet Hereafter. Interesting…but not really made clear here. I was left scratching my head at several parts. Was he purposely trying to be obtuse or was that just a natural outcome due to the nature of the story? The entire storyline was perplexing to me. Watching a film really should not be that hard.

Pluses are the way the film looks. Egoyan has always been a master at setting up scenes visually. No exception here despite the dull and languid story pace. Also, Thewlis does a fine job in a role which requires plenty of quiet and assurance from him.

Guest of Honour after premiering at last year’s TIFF is finally seeing the light of day. It will now enjoy a wide realease here in Canada.

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