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A lonely middle-aged catering manager spends all of his time studying tapes of an eccentric TV chef. Meanwhile, a young woman is making her way from Ireland to find her boy friend, who moved to England to get a job in a lawn-mower factory. On arrival, she makes an early contact with the caterer, who recommends a boarding room to her. Slowly, it is revealed that the caterer has in fact befriended and subsequently abused more than a dozen young women. He, of course, now sets his sights on this woman. Much of the story is told in flashbacks, revealing how each of the characters grew to the point where they now find themselves. However, the drama of the character interaction is more important to director, Atom Egoyan, than the potential horror of the situation. Written by
John Sacksteder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In an interview he did with Maclean's last year(the Sept. 12 issue, I think, though I'm not exactly sure), writer-director Atom Egoyan talked about an incident in his life which partly explains why his last three films - EXOTICA, THE SWEET HEREAFTER, and now FELICIA'S JOURNEY - have been about very twisted, almost predatory, relationships. It seems when he was a teen, he fell in love with a girl who, as it turns out, was being molested by her father, and naturally, that caused all sorts of difficulties. Unconsciously maybe, in order to understand how anybody could do such a thing, maybe Egoyan has tried since to use film to do that(although I won't state that as a fact; I'm no psychologist).
What is clear in FELICIA'S JOURNEY is that, for the first part of the movie anyway, Egoyan is clearly more interested in telling the story of Hilditch, the caterer who is more disturbed than meets the eye, than in Felicia, the young woman he befriends. If this were just a movie about Hilditch, maybe that would suffice. But in the novel by William Trevor this is based on, even though Felicia's story is a familiar one(young, somewhat naive girl falls in love with boy her family doesn't approve of, he leaves, she gets pregnant, and tries to find him), her story is of equal importance to the story of Hilditch, and Trevor is interested equally in both of them. The problem is Egoyan seems disconnected to Felicia's story, even though Elaine Cassidy is quite good in the role, so not only does the story go slack there, we start to question, as you didn't in reading the novel, how she could be so naive.
Eventually, though, when Felicia ends up staying with Hilditch and gradually learns about him, the terror of the story, and the fact that, thanks to Egoyan, we're seeing her primarily through Hilditch, makes us care. And, as I said, Cassidy is quite good.
Of course, the movie belongs to Bob Hoskins as Hilditch. Hoskins doesn't make the mistake of coming across as a sneering psychopath. Instead, he trusts us to make our associations from past roles of his(THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, MONA LISA) to realize there's something bubbling under this mama's boy, and concentrates on playing Hilditch on someone who genuinely believes he's doing good deeds here, and just want to help. It also helps that Arsinee Khanjian, as Egoyan's wife, is quite good, and funny, as the domineering mother; you may never watch cooking shows the same way again.
Egoyan also doesn't make a conventional Hollywood thriller as the movie draws to its conclusion. What he substitutes is something which, admittedly, played out better in the novel because Trevor was able to stretch it out more, but it still chills you to the bone. One may wonder why Egoyan took to a genre piece right after THE SWEET HEREAFTER, but he reworks it into a movie which does resonate.
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