In Guest of Honour, Atom Egoyan’s signature style somehow simultaneously works as both the film’s biggest strength and its downfall.
Atom Egoyan’s latest endeavor is, at its core, a film about family, and that theme is where it ultimately succeeds. Guest of Honour, while admittedly engaging and intriguing through its entire runtime, finds itself biting off more than it can chew at points. It introduces the viewer to a simple plot about a relationship between Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira) and Jim (David Thewlis), a father and daughter who seem to be going through a troubling time. Veronica is in jail for a crime she seemingly didn’t commit, but feels the need to be punished in some way for the mistakes she made earlier in her life, and Jim has spent this time trying to reconnect and understand just why she feels this way, and what exactly happened. The movie soon takes on many twists and turns, including various storylines that parallel and jump between past and future, trying to encapsulate one too many ideas, only for a few of them to really hit the mark.
Now, Egoyan is no stranger to the stylistic aspects of this film. The many flashbacks and intertwining plot lines have long been a part of his signature style, only here the film doesn’t feel nearly tight enough to warrant them. As the layered drama continues to become more convoluted, the viewer is left to question just why so much is happening. There are a lot of characters and stories introduced, some having no impact whatsoever, but they are presented as though they will be forceful. The script definitely feels though it needed a bit more revision, some things certainly could’ve been left out or even fleshed out more to get that emotional impact that everyone involved very clearly wanted with Guest of Honour.
Guest of Honour’s best moments are the ones focused on Jim and Veronica. The two actors have some good chemistry with each other, and give great performances that allow us into the headspace of their characters, and their relationship is by far the most riveting plot point. The two of them believe in such different extremes when it comes to the situation at hand. They have a hard time understanding each other, and have such different ways of coping, making their dynamic extremely fascinating. All of the conversations between this troubled father-daughter duo add plenty of sentimental weight to the film, and the viewer can really feel the love and growing frustration between them, which is why it’s sort of a shame that it wasn’t as ocused on within the monotonous drama.
It’s still a fairly good viewing experience. It looks nice, it’s acted well, it’s simply a matter of some missed potential and misused talent. Everyone involved is very capable, and when it shows it certainly shows, but when it lacks it definitely shows as well. It’s worth a watch just to see it all unfold, and to watch the masterful actors at the centerfold.
Guest of Honour opens on July 10 in Kino Marquee virtual cinemas, supporting independent theaters.
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