Atom Egoyan’s movie “Adoration” is a non-linear, fascinating and deeply suspenseful film noir that gives one of the best of post-9/11, postmodern and Internet-based cultural films I’ve seen. Included in this story are an assortment of pressing and provocative questions—the ethics of terrorism, the deceptiveness of what appears to be outwardly obvious and the numerous ways modern technology adds to dialogue. Perhaps the most interesting question the film poses is the one about dialogue and the Internet.
The story is of a high school boy whose parents were killed in a car accident when he was a pre-teen. He is being raised by his uncle, a not too pleasant character who slowly wins you over. Clearly there has been a breakdown in this family before and after his sister’s tragic death. (The uncle was only 22 when he began to raise his orphaned nephew.) You soon discover through Egoyan’s more postmodern method of story-telling, a method that cycles back and forth into various elements of the past treating it as a mix of this and that, that Simon (the high school boy who is the lead character played by Devon Bostick, see photo below) wants to know more about his deceased father and wonders if he might have actually been a terrorist. This approach tantalizes the viewer as Simon’s story unfolds in the context of a class in a Toronto public school with an unusual teacher. (Spoiler alert: The teacher is very important to the story line so I will say no more in my review.) In this French class the teacher is reading a story about a terrorist that Simon turns into a drama which makes him begin to wonder if this story is really about his parents. The twist is that it seems to be so and once he shares this “fiction” via the Internet the story gains a huge response, creating a plethora of anger and outrage. A score of non-professional actors were secured to play the role of the Internet users, young and old alike, who are situated in chat rooms responding to Simon and his story. The viewer gets a strong sense of the power of this medium for good and ill. (There is an twenty minute interview with Egoyan in the DVD features section that deals with the development of Internet and the writer/producer argues that “real presence” can never be replaced by online chats and relationships. It is worth watching.)
In the Internet chat scenes real people argue back-and-forth about whether martyrdom, in any form, is ever right, or heroic. Others respond to the feelings they have about having been on a plane that should have blown up but was not. Egoyan is clearly concerned with misuses of the Internet thus his film, like several of his previous works, drives this point home powerfully. These scenes shot with non-professionals work quite well I think.
Egoyan is sometimes criticized, if you read various reviews of his films, for being an intellectual, not a dramatist. I find this to be one of the genuinely compelling features of this work. It humanely delves into the story, a story which includes family dysfunction, prejudicial stereotypes and the desire to know who one is and how life became the way it is. All the while this film keeps the viewer guessing about the outcome of the larger meta-narrative itself. The cast is not universally impressive but the film works on a profound level. I loved it and think the film, plus the features on the Internet, are well worth the time of thoughtful movie watchers.
“Adoration” is available on DVD and is a 2008 Sony Pictures release. It is rated R for language.