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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Jamie Bell
Ciaran Hinds
Claire Forlani
Sophia Myles
Ewen Bremner
Jamie Sives.
Directors
David Mackenzie.
Screenwriters
David Mackenzie
Ed Whitmore.
Running Time
96 minutes

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Hallam Foe
Billy Elliot gets freaky in Auld Reekie


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Plot
After the death of his mother, eccentric teen loner Hallam Foe (Bell) runs away from his father’s country home. Living rough in Edinburgh, he gets a job as a hotel kitchen porter and becomes unhealthily obsessed with a girl in Human Resources.


Review
Hallam Foe
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In the space of four  features, David Mackenzie has established himself as a singular and frustratingly underrated talent. His films are as protean as those of Michael Winterbottom but, for some reason, his name is usually overshadowed by those of his cast. And in the case of his most artistically satisfying film, Young Adam, it wasn’t even those that took the column inches in the reviews, but the messy custard-and-ketchup sex scene.
 
His last film, Asylum, was a muted follow-up that thwarted the momentum which was building - had Hallam Foe arrived then, it would have done wonders for his profile, confirming Mackenzie as a director with a vision. Not to mention an eye for sexual provocation; here, Jamie Bell and Sophia Myles make a terrific couple, sparking a weird erotic charge, morbid but also riveting in the way such relationships can be.
 
Myles does well in such murky psychic waters. Her performance as Kate Breck is refreshingly complex; she’s a girl who knows what she wants and takes it, however selfish those desires. Similarly, Bell offers more than a pathetic foil, playing Foe with a strange, schizophrenic cockiness that surfaces, often unexpectedly, throughout the film.
 
The most striking aspect of Hallam Foe, however, is its upside-downness, its focus on the rooftops and nooks of Edinburgh’s Grassmarket to create Foe’s lonely kingdom. There’s something truly unsettling about the tiles and spires that gives Foe’s unhinged state of mind a kaleidoscopic beauty, a sense that the only way down is up, and, as the film’s strangely upbeat and cathartic ending suggests, vice versa.
 
The sole problem with Hallam Foe is its structure. Adapted from Peter Jinks’ novel, it feels like an adapted novel, coming to life during picaresque and sometimes hilarious scenes filmed in the Caledonian Hotel but faltering whenever Mackenzie returns to The Story of Foe and his neuroses and how they come to be vanquished.
 
It puts the film in good company, but although it worked for Fight Club, Hallam Foe’s bathetic you-met-me-at-a-strange-time-in-my-life coda might not satisfy those expecting something more hard-edged from a director whose past work suggests a willingness to go somewhere more original.


Verdict
An intriguing rites-of-passage story with a delirious, skewed perspective and an almost palpable sexual pulse.


Reviewed by Damon Wise

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Hallam Foe
Empire Star Rating

Hello Peeps - do you see what I did there?

Why was the Badger thing never explained? Rather an odd film, but keeps the attention nonetheless. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MyPOV at 15:02, 28 April 2008 | Report This Post


Auld Reekie

Dull and pretentious. Jamie Bell is wasted, and puts an excellent performance into a pointless film, as does Sophia Myles. Edinburgh, one of our most photogenic cities, is similarily overlooked in a film which could be set in any of many towns. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FlexDream at 23:10, 26 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Enjoyable

Thoroughly enjoyed this film. It struck me when watching it that it could have been a bad film in the wrong hands, but is really well delivered and Bell turns what could have been one of those "quirky" characters likeable and most importantly, believable. Even though he spends alot of the time spying on people he is never really creepy, just troubled and finding it difficult to deal with a major loss in his life, a very believable teenager.  A brilliant performace that carries the film,&nb... More

Posted by boot at 01:09, 11 September 2007 | Report This Post


Enjoyable

I went to see this filled with expectation, largely due to the burgeoning talent that is Jamie Bell and the fact that the film is set in Scotland. I am not scottish, but since I saw Gregory's Girl about 20 odd years ago I have loved films that are tartanic! This film delivers an intriguing storyline, with a quite potty protaganist in Hallam Foe. Not since Donnie Darko have I seen and enjoyed watching strange adventures and oddball behaviour, though Hallam is strange he has some clear motives- th... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kevmanwilly at 00:49, 07 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE:

Not many people seem to have seen this which is a great shame. It's a great film with a wonderful soundtrack, Bell gives a great performance and manages to stay a likeable lead in spite of his characters flaws. Good to have a British film that isn't about cockney gangsters or a penguin classic...and, best of all, doesn't star Danny Dyer... ... More

Posted by Charliebois at 19:59, 05 September 2007 | Report This Post


Foe isn't the most likeable character in the world but Jamie Bell, getting better and better all the time, gets you onside immediately in a flawless performance and proves he can carry a film on his own shoulders even at the tender age of 21. His Foe is a rash of contradictions - tender, terrifying, sweet, creepy - and Bell delivers each when needed. The film needed a stronger ending, however, and fizzles out rather than delivering a just climax worthy of the build up. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 19:33, 03 September 2007 | Report This Post


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