Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Felicia's Journey

By Marjorie Baumgarten

DECEMBER 20, 1999: 

D: Atom Egoyan; with Bob Hoskins, Elaine Cassidy, Arsinée Khanjian, Peter McDonald, Gerard McSorley, Claire Benedict, Danny Turner. (PG-13, 116 min.)

Although Felicia's Journey is not quite the multifaceted gem that Atom Egoyan's previous film The Sweet Hereafter was, the director's film adaptation of William Trevor's novel of the same name revisits his familiar themes of distance, alienation, bad timing, and the innocence of children and their despoilment by adults. Bob Hoskins stars in this psychological thriller and delivers one of his most restrained performances ever as a grown-up "mama's boy" who is still clearly bedeviled by "issues" that are revealed to the viewer in an ever-so-gradual manner. The character he plays, Hilditch, is a head chef in a factory kitchen whose peculiar hang-ups regarding food preparation go back to his relationship with his mother (Khanjian), a chef and cheerful homemaker on an ersatz French cooking show of the 1950s in which her chubby son Joey was used as if he were another kitchen utensil. There is an extreme creepiness in Hoskins' measured performance as he carefully calibrates his words and thoughts. But it is a discomfiture that Egoyan creates slowly, adding (as is his style) bits of information and detail that gradually augment the film's underlying sense of menace and mystery. Hiditch's odd behavior and memories are crosscut with progressive sequences of Felicia's journey. Felicia is an Irish girl who has come to Birmingham, England, to find the lover who promised to send her his address but never did. She is a true innocent, unprepared for the lies of a lover or the deceptions of a kindly predator. Furthermore, both Hilditch and Felicia are victims of the pathologies of their parents. The two central performances are lovely; the sadness and solitariness of Felicia and Hilditch's stories continue to crosscut and merge until we are filled with such dread that their lives will intersect. Egoyan's longtime cameraman Paul Sarossy brings his crisp but enigmatic photographic style to the proceedings, and the story's integration of videographic themes (another Egoyan constant) enhances its overall atmosphere of distanced voyeurism and sketchy doom. The predeterminism of the storyline that ordains that the trajectories of these two lost souls will ultimately connect is oddly interrupted by a coincidental and abrupt conclusion. In the end there is little more here than the stories of predator and a victim; the experiences lack resonance beyond the borders of the tale. Felicia's Journey is more in the vein of a Hitchcockian thriller than a vast cultural observation such as The Sweet Hereafter. Perhaps it's unfair to judge a filmmaker on the basis of his previous work, but in this instance Egoyan's hereafter is a pale imitation of his yesterday.

3 Stars

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