Atom Egoyan’s new film, Guest of Honour, was shot mostly in Hamilton. Last night, masks in place, we saw it at the Playhouse Cinema.
I am a great admirer of Atom Egoyan’s films. Yes, they are dark and brooding. Yes, they drift and ramble. I’m okay with that, because his vision is so compelling, and the films are so beautifully crafted.
The story is set in Hamilton. Remarkably, for a Canadian film, it really is Hamilton, not pretending to be some American city. The film opens in St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church on Main Street (a location we know well, because our play Walter was staged there, back in March.) Jim, the main character, is a health inspector, who is seen checking on some of the well-known restaurants on James Street, most notably Wild Orchid, as well as the Trocadero on Barton Street.
The impact of seeing our Hamilton environment represented in film is surprisingly affecting. We’re used to nudging each other in the middle of shoot-em-up American films, whispering “Gage Park”, “King Street”. This really is Hamilton, and Hamilton is looking pretty good.
The acting is fine. The film is a tour de force for David Thewlis, shuffling and shambling his way through Jim’s troubled life, and for Laysla De Oliveira, as his daughter. Hrant Alianak and Arsinée Khanjian as the owners of Wild Orchid, Luke Wilson as Father Greg (and everyone really) deliver deeply nuanced performances.
Guest of Honour is a small, sad story about misunderstanding, about anger concealed too long, about the gulf between adults and children, about love felt but not communicated properly. Not for everyone, maybe, but for people who like a film that probes the complexities of life, more nourishing that twenty action-packed blockbusters.