PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Mister Foe (Hallam Foe)

By the end of Hallam Foe, you've nearly forgotten his all-too-regular boy development. Now you're wondering, what's Kate doing when he's not looking?


Mister Foe (Hallam Foe)

Director: David Mackenzie
Cast: Jamie Bell, Sophia Myles, Cirián Hands, Jamie Sives, Maurice Roëves, Ewen Bremner, Claire Forlani
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
First date: 2007
UK Release Date: 2007-08-31 (General release)
US Release Date: 2008-09-05 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer
You'll soon find someone to help you iron out those creases of yours.

-- Kate (Sophia Myles)

"Get out of my room, Hallam." Interrupted during a depilatory session in her bathroom, Lucy (Lucy Holt) is exasperated. Her brother Hallam (Jamie Bell) seems always to be lurking -- a point made by the pitchy camerawork that grants a decidedly disturbing view of her briefly intimate moment.

Hallam's peeping is a key theme in Hallam Foe (inexplicably retitled for U.S distribution). Even more odiously, the film repeatedly aligns your perspective with his. It's not that you feel sympathetic, exactly, or even that you come to understand his habit. But you see what he sees and see him seeing too -- through binoculars and tree branches, narrow doorways and broken windows. Yes, he's troubled. Not only has the 17-year-old recently lost his mother -- ostensibly to suicide -- but his father Julian (Cirián Hands) also has a new, perpetually tense young wife, who happens to be his former secretary, Verity (Claire Forlani). Hallam suspects she had a hand in his mother's death (his devotion to his mummy is underscored by his keeping a gigantic photo portrait on the wall over his bed, so he can tell her goodnight). But this is only icing on the Oedipal cake, for he resents Verity's very presence (noting she could be mistaken for "a prostitute") while he can't stop him himself from spying on her assignations with his dad -- again, through barely cracked-open doors and slatty blinds.

Donning face paint and a skunk head, portrayed as lost and angry during montages under indie-rock tunes (by Orange Juice, Clinic, Junior Boys, and Franz Ferdinand, among others), Hallam is undone when Lucy leaves: she's off to school, packing her bags into a taxi as he watches from an upstairs window. As if catching himself, he suddenly realizes that he'll miss her, and bolts down the steps and driveway, too late to say goodbye, the shot of him receding in the cab's rear window underscoring his desolation and sense of defeat. Such images -- frames within frames, spaces compressed, incessantly mobile frames -- repeatedly designate Hallam's state of mind. Soon after he announces to his father that he plans to skip college and stay "right here" ("I'm sorry if that screws up your plans"), he's confronted by Verity -- with his salacious diaries in hand -- in the tree-house he considers his sanctuary. The yucky next move is predictable: they engage in a bit of solemn, heavy-breathing violence and then sex. If he hasn't screwed his mother, exactly, he's done a foul thing. As Verity puts it n her way out the door, "It's time to fly the nest, Hallam, and I think you know that."

Yes, even Hallam knows it now. And so, as he slams his head into his tree-house floor in loud, extreme close-up, the scene cuts to a train roaring down low-angled tracks. His flight to Edinburgh leads to a job as a hotel kitchen worker, alongside a hard-faced fellow, Raymond (Maurice Roëves), who announces, "I killed a man once, smashed his skull on a pier. Just so you know." not only does Raymond's jaunty self-characterization bring to mind both of the previous films in David Mackenzie's "sex trilogy" (Young Adam and Asylum), but it also lays out the gray moral terrain Hallam has entered. Scuttling along dirty streets, hiding in dark alleyways, the kid is now in an element he might call his.

This immersion is affirmed by the fact that the woman who hires him at the hotel, Kate (Sophia Myles), looks exactly like his dead mother (Myles has, in fact, posed for mom's photos). Having heaved himself from the frying pan into a grim, gray fire, Hallam is delirious. Washing dishes y day, he spends his off-hours stalking Kate, watching from across streets, an abandoned clock tower (using high-powered binoculars), as well as her own apartment building rooftop (through a convenient skylight), as she takes kick-boxing classes and has crude sex with a married boyfriend, who happens to be her boss, Alasdair (the impeccably unpleasant Jamie Sives).

Unaware of her hire's obsession, Kate comes along for a celebration of his 18th birthday, attended by floor manager Andy (Ewan Bremner, characteristically perverse and not on screen nearly enough). When Andy exits and the drinking begins in earnest, Kate confesses to falling for one of the most complex pickup lines in history: "I want to suck the dick of the last guy who fucked you." Perhaps Hallam is growing up after all: even he wonders how she could have gone to bed with this guy. Hallam goes on to lie about being a virgin (by way of explaining why he's not responding to Kate's sexy striptease and slide into his lap), then finds it in himself to revel in a lovely afternoon tryst with Mummy-Kate, his face aglow and his dreams -- at long last -- fulfilled. That they find such ecstasy after comparing names for their privates ("my schlong," "my pussy," "my home," "my stick," "my gash," "my bat," "my muff") only makes this connection sillier.

But even as Hallam Foe appears in this instant to deliver a happy ending for its titular sufferer, the rug is already being readies for quick removal. Exaggerating and satirizing the maturation process so frequently celebrated in more mundane, less arch narratives, Mackenzie's familial melodrama continues to pitch from one extreme to another. Hallam still needs to settle accounts with Julius and Verity (who snarks about him finding happiness with a "lookalike"), as well as have it out with Kate about the stalking. Her initial solution -- he must confess to her all his bad deeds while standing before her naked -- is enchantingly porn-star-meets-schoolmarmish. It also makes you realize that the movie has missed an opportunity. Forget his all-too-regular boy development. What's Kate doing when he's not looking?

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.