A lonely catering manager befriends a young girl, just arrived from Ireland and in search of her lover. But it soon becomes clear that he has more in mind than simple charity.
Cult Canadian director Atom Egoyan has a fascination with people not being what they first appear. So it should come as no surprise that the Canadian director should be drawn to William Trevor's disturbing novel about a pregnant Irish teenager who comes to England looking for the boyfriend who left her - and instead finds a sinister Brummie bachelor.
As a portrait of the banality of evil, Bob Hoskins' Hilditch is little short of brilliant. A loner whose scrupulously maintained home looks like a 50s time capsule, he conceals a hi-tech video camera (another of Egoyan's obsessions since 1987's Family Viewing) in his Morris Minor and uses it to record dark conversations with young homeless girls. To Cassidy's guileless Felicia, his promise to help her find her lover makes him seem nothing more than a kindly old man, a far cry from her own hateful father, blinkered in his vision of a noble Republican past. Hilditch is also trapped in the past and, as he obsessively watches his celebrity mother's TV cookery classes, we glean he has skeletons in his closet - and possibly the back garden.
Egoyan's film weaves together impressionistic flashbacks of rural Ireland with panoramic shots of the industrial Midlands, gradually narrowing the focus to reflect Felicia's entrapment. That we experience a genuine shiver of dread owes much to Cassidy's finely realised depiction of child-like naiveté within a young woman's flowering sexuality.
If there's a problem, it's surely that Egoyan's surrealist flourishes (pretty out there even by his own high standards of oddness) sit uneasily within the drama. But that's a small price to pay to see a true original at work.
Beautiful, haunting, and chillingly powerful, this displays the usual Egoyan strengths, but suffers a little from his stylistic flourishes.