Canadian director Atom Egoyan is most at home wrapping delicate mysteries of fate inside mournful elegies. He has strayed from the style and sort of story that made him famous in recent years, and risked obscurity (Ararat, Citadel) or ridicule (Where the Truth Lies).
Egoyan returns to The Sweet Hereafter (1997) comfort zone with Adoration, a gimmicky, sad and beautifully acted mystery that keeps its secrets even when it loses its grasp of the logical.
A Toronto teen (Devon Bostick) listens with growing agitation as his French teacher reads a famous news account of a mass murder narrowly averted by Israeli airport security. A pregnant woman about to board a plane for the Holy Land was stopped when a bomb was found in her purse. Her "monster" of a Palestinian lover planted it and packed her off, sentencing her and his unborn child to death.
The boy doesn't translate the article. He writes a biographical essay. That unborn child was him. If his father had succeeded, Simon would not exist, and hundreds of others would have died. Simon's tale rivets the class, who tie up his evenings with video web arguments over truth, prejudice and bad parenting.
His teacher, played by Egoyan's wife, Arsineé Khanjian, doubles as drama director. She is fascinated by the object lesson she sees this story teaching the class, and testing the tolerance of the kids' parents.
The only problem? It's not true. We learn, very quickly, that the teacher has embraced and encouraged this charade. Over the course of the film -- told in flashbacks to that day at the airport, to Simon's real-life past, his relationship to his late grandfather and his current difficulties with his uncle (Scott Speedman, quite good) -- we struggle with truth and drama, voyeuristically peeking in on this revealing lie and its far-reaching consequences.
Simon's mom (Rachel Blanchard) was a violinist, and sad violin solos dominate the score. Her violin is a piece of the puzzle, which Egoyan is more interested in complicating than solving.
But lovely and thought-provoking as Adoration is, the coincidences, illogical behavior and each puzzling (sometimes outrageous) act by the teacher are so jarring that it's easy to get lost trying to explain her motivations. Egoyan certainly did.
AdorationFour of five starsCast: Devon Bostick, Arsineé Khanjian, Scott Speedman, Rachel BlanchardDirector: Atom EgoyanRunning time: 1 hour 40 minutesIndustry rating: Rated R for language.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times