It’s a common truth that spying on people is lots of fun. Neighbours are fascinating, buzzing about their gardens, or their front rooms or kitchens (depends on where you’re viewing them from) doing their everyday things - boring things that you do too, but made more interesting because it’s someone else. Like the song by Modest Mouse, other people’s lives are more interesting because they aren’t mine.
Young Hallam Foe shares my fascination, only he devotes a lot more of his time and effort to it (my spying only really occurs from a seated position, unless the event really warrants a crouch by the window) and he also likes to don a dead badger on his head and wear his dead mother’s clothes and make up. Hallam’s in a different league, really.
Look up the plot keywords for this film on imdb and you’ll see a cornucopia of incestuous terms and dodgy behaviour. It looks like Jamie Bell has tried to pick the polar opposite to ‘Kes-with-dancing’ Billy Elliot, that made him a star back in the day. And who can blame him - what twenty-something lad wants to be remembered as a little skipping, jumping brat? In Hallam Foe, Bell turns in an impressive performance, mixing creepy with naïve, charming with cunning and confused with voyeuristic greatness. He carries the film, and I’m curious to see where his next move will be as an actor.
Despite the slightly disturbing nature of the plot (Hallam’s relationship choices all having a ‘mother’ theme) Hallam Foe is a much lighter film than expected. Hallam bumps into an array of jovial Scottish types on his travels, latching on to Kate (Sophia Myles), the vaguely unhinged HR worker who gives Hallam his first job, and also resembles a certain dead parent. The film follows Hallam’s relationship with her, with his own battle to get over losing his mother, and with his increasingly estranged father and rent-an-evil-step-mother (whose facial features are so strikingly evil, you wonder if she’s CGI).
So Hallam wanders away from voyeuristic-creepy and dabbles with elements of comedy and romance, as well as a bit of murder-mystery thriller. But rather than add to the film, I felt almost cheated by these plot directions. As a character, Hallam has the potential for following many dark paths, and as an actor, Bell could have coped with all, making this a challenging, powerful film. But watered down and striving for a ‘happy’ ending, the film feels like it’s pulled short of its true potential.
Not that I’m a sicko who wanted a dark, nasty film full of incest and voyeurism. But something along those lines would have certainly elicited emotion, maybe revulsion, but at least some form of reaction. Watered-down Hallam was entertaining, at times intriguing, but mostly left little impression. It’s reviewed in magazines like “Star!” and “Kabam!” and “Whatever!” with “oo Jamie Bell’s really moved on in this hot tale of blah-de-blah! Wow!” Big deal - I wanted something better than average because it’s been a long time since a film has really made me go ‘wow’. It even took me over a week before I could even be bothered to review this.
In short, though it wasn’t a bad film, it wasn’t a great film either, and I seem to be taking my ‘lack of great film’ frustrations out on it today. Harsh, maybe, but that’s the way the cinemafool world goes. Hallam gets a recommended CF0, albeit in a lacklustre tone. Now if you don’t mind, I think my neighbour’s just got home…