There are certain films that would never have been made by a major Hollywood studio. If that's the case, how do I even know about them? How do I see them? I seek them out in independent theaters specializing in foreign and independently made films. Or I watch them on DVD, eagerly anticipating the chance to experience these films I have heard about. Frequently, these films tell stories that are odd, or unusual, in some way. Perhaps, they are small slices of life, delving into a few eccentric characters. Maybe they follow the sexual awakening, in more frank detail, of a central character. Maybe they are just plain off the wall. Frequently, these little films are real finds and contain some great performances in highly unique stories, stories too challenging for a major studio to produce and release. All of these definitions apply to "Mister Foe", the new Scottish film starring Jamie Bell ("Billy Elliott", "Jumper").
A strange note. In Scotland, this film is called "Hallam Foe", after the main character's full name. In America, it is called "Mister Foe". I guess the American distribution company didn't think we would know what "Hallam" meant. But "Mister"? Bell's character is less mentally developed than a teenager. "Mister" is not a good choice.
Hallam Foe (Bell) is a strange young man. He likes to hang out in his tree house and watch the comings and goings of the people on his father's (Ciaran Hinds) estate. But he is also disturbed by the theory he has surrounding his mom's death; he suspects his new step-mother, Verity (Claire Forlani, "Meet Joe Black", "Basquiat") of killing his mom so she can marry his father and inherit the huge estate. Verity was his father's former assistant and has now accepted a larger role in the company. Hallam's sister recognizes the signs and heads to Australia. But Hallam stays behind, determined to prove Verity is a murderer. One night, he tries to seduce her and this leads him to flee to Edinburgh where he gets a job in a large hotel. Hiding out in the clock tower, he starts to spy on Kate (Sophia Myles, "Underworld", "Art School Confidential", TV's "Moonlight"), the HR director who hired him. She lives in a building across the way and he breaks out his trusty binoculars. Soon, they start to chat and Hallam becomes more involved in her life. But his father and step-mom make an inopportune appearance, trying to get him to return home.
Directed by David McKenzie ("Young Adam"), "Mister Foe" tells a unique, strange, interesting, more sexually frank story about a unique young man.
"Foe" is as interesting as it is because of the performance of Jamie Bell. Bell initially made a splash as "Billy Elliott", but in the intervening years, he has appeared in a number of forgettable or ignored films. Now with "Mister Foe", he plays a strange young man with a lot of issues, insecurities and development problems. Bell's performance is close to mesmerizing. The actor seems to get so completely lost in all of the different aspects of the character, making him believable, rich and alive.
Hallam waits in his tree house, dressed in animal skins and war paint, lying in wait for a friend of his. Soon, a young lady and her boyfriend walk by and fall to the ground and start making love, groping each other's bodies. Hallam clearly knows one of both of these people and grabs his zip line. Shouting, he quickly lands in the middle of the couple, startling both. They rush off, hurling threats at him.
The amazing thing about this performance is that even though Hallam is seventeen or eighteen, he has the maturity of a nine or ten year old. And Bell makes us understand this and believe it through his portrayal.
After the falling out with his father and step-mom, he runs off to Edinburgh and gets a job washing dishes in the kitchen of a large hotel. He finds a little nook behind a large clock and makes his home there. The unique vantage point allows him to continue his favorite past time, to watch people. He soon realizes Kate (Sophia Myles), the HR person who hired him, lives across the street in a small apartment. And he also realizes that Alasdair (Jamie Sives), the head porter, is having an extra marital affair with Kate. He begins to watch them.
Soon, Kate becomes attracted to Hallam and their relationship takes some interesting, frank turns.
Bell's performance is what makes "Mister Foe" so interesting. Bell seems to take in all of Foe's problems and exhibit them for us as though they are his own. Because the performance is so open and revealing, we get a real feel for the character and what he is feeling and going through. I doubt it will happen, but Bell should be remembered when the Oscars roll around next February.
Sophia Myles is also good as Kate. A single woman, she takes her job very seriously and maintains a very good business demeanor. After she and Hallam begin seeing each other, their relationship seems very natural, goes through some believable ups and downs, based on what we know of their characters. It is almost a bit refreshing to see a female act in the way Kate acts. She is a modern woman and knows what she wants and likes. If she isn't getting that, she moves on. Doesn't want to waste a lot of time.
"Mister Foe" is populated with many other characters. Verity, played by Claire Forlani, is particularly mysterious and complex. But the film is about Hallam; he is the center of this universe and his character is so strong, everything else seems like an after thought.
"Mister Foe" is strange, unusual and worth your time.