Directed by: David Mackenzie
Written by: Ed Whitmore, David Mackenzie
Other cast: Jamie Bell, Ciaran Hinds, Jamie Sives, Maurice Roeves, Ewen Bremner, Claire Forlani, Ruth Milne
Release date: 31 August 2007 (UK), 5 September 2008 (US)
Running time: 90 min
Jamie Bell stars as Hallam, a young man that suspects that his stepmother may have had a hand in the sudden death of his biological mother. Fleeing the family home, Hallam takes up residence upon the rooftops of Edinburgh, it’s not long before he is drawn into a voyeuristic obsession with a young woman who shares more than a passing resemblance to his mother …
A teenage boy is looking through his binoculars hidden by the branches of the tree he’s climbed. What does he watch? 2 teenagers fumbling and making out. He scribbles some phrases in a notebook then retreats to his tree house that he had turned into a shrine devoted to his dead mother – there’s a larger-than-life portrait of her covering a whole wall. He puts on eyeliner, draws circles around his nipples with red lipstick and covers his head with a badger’s fur. Thus prepared he leaps off the tree, dangling from a rope and descends on the young lovers – while screaming yee-haw.
After this opening scene we know Hallam Foe is nothing but ordinary. He’s a 17 year old misfit struggling to come to terms with the death of his mother 2 years ago. That event marked the beginning of his voyeurism. Not wanting to be around anyone he started watching people and it became a habit. The only person accepting him and his oddities and the only friend to speak of is his sister Lucy. When she leaves for Australia he feels betrayed and completely alone in the world. He turns all his anguish and anger on his stepmother Verity. When he learns that his mother’s death was suicide rather than an accident he becomes convinced Verity had something to do with it. Despite hating her he also fancies her – which he hates himself for. When she confronts him after reading his diaries she turns his attack into a sexual encounter. Disgusted, Hallam leaves for Edinburgh.
When he lays eyes on a young woman who looks strikingly like his mother he follows her and applies for a job in the hotel she works as a personnel manager. Her name is Kate Breck. In his free time he watches her every move and finds out about her affair with married hotel manager Alisdair. Gradually, Hallam’s relationship with Kate evolves and takes on a more romantical note. But will he come to terms with his mother’s death, learn where his anger comes from, find a more balanced way to deal with Verity, get a chance to talk properly to his dad, start living his own life rather than watching those of other people and most of all, does his romance with Kate have a chance or is it doomed by his voyeurism?
Sophia Myles plays Kate Breck. Working as a personnel manager in a hotel she catches Hallam Foe’s eyes because she bears a striking similarity to his dead mother. She doesn’t seem to have had much luck when it comes to love. We learn she was previously married and currently she’s having an affair with her married boss. Yet, as Hallam observes she’s not always enjoying it. Indeed, Kate is an emotionally scarred person herself, which is why she and Hallam bond. Before Kate actively becomes a part of the film’s plot we know already a lot about her through Hallam’s watching. We see her taking kickboxing classes, exercising at home, biting her toe nails, hanging out with friends in a bar and having sex with Alisdair. Sophia Myles looks absolutely beautiful and ethereal but conveys the various aspects of Kate’s sometimes flawed character perfectly. Sometimes it’s just in the tone of her voice, in the way she pauses between two words or in a glance. Kate could easily have become a one-dimensional character but Sophia brings her to life and makes her a normal and most of all real person. This is without a doubt Sophia’s best work to date. The role gives her the opportunity to really shine, to show the world what a versatile actress she is.
The film was renamed to ‘Mister Foe’ for US audiences.
The animated title sequence is by Scottish artist David Shrigley, who also does all the the drawings and writing in Hallam’s diaries.
The film’s entire score was provided by the label Domino Records.
Quotes from Others
Director David Mackenzie
I think that Sophia really embodies this complex character. She has to play hard and soft and sexy and damaged, sometimes in the same scene, and she’s able to nail it very efficiently and movingly.
I hope that this film will help to change people’s perception of Sophia. She has a real movie-star face, like Ingrid Bergman. She’s a throwback to that Forties glamour, but she’s grittier and more approachable than a Hitchcock blonde ice-queen. I think people have mistakenly typecast her as a posh bird in the past, but this film should go some way toward demolishing that impression.
Producer Gillian Berrie
And then as Kate, the damaged young woman who into Hallam’s life, Sophia Myles brought a different dimension. She’s perfect, both hard and soft, professional and vulnerable and in her and Jamie’s hands the magic of the second part of the film just flows.
Quotes from Reviews
The New York Times
And the object of his desperate, icky and fond attention is certainly well chosen. Ms. Myles has the task of turning a phantasm of adolescent desire into a real person.
Kate’s insistence, late in the movie, that she is just that is both superfluous and unconvincing. In her loneliness, her toughness, her perfect mix of maternal warmth and sexual adventurousness, she is at heart a literary conceit, an inhabitant of that realm of the male imagination where lust and sentimentality meet and mingle. But Ms. Myles inhabits the role with such crisp and understated wit that she manages to hold such doubts at bay. Common sense might suggest that a woman in Kate’s position should change her locks, call the police or move to another town when a guy like Hallam shows up, but somehow she never seems more sensible than when she does the opposite of what prudence might dictate.
Chemistry between Bell and Myles is especially good, with the former radiating a mixture of angelic charm and manipulation, and the latter sending out subtle signals that Kate, underneath her business suit, simply needs regular servicing.
The other great performance this week comes from Sophia Myles, as Kate. She is strong, sexy and more complex than her sweet persona would suggest. The film asks us to believe that a woman like Kate would happily sleep with an immature young man she discovers has been spying on her, and who wants her to dress up in his mother’s clothes – and Myles makes her believable.
Myles gives her character a solidity that stops her from becoming merely a gorgeous male fantasy.
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.
There’s also terrific support from Claire Forlani (in a performance that’s simultaneously sexy and terrifying), as well as solid turns from Ciaran Hinds (as Hallam’s dad), a brilliantly slimy Jamie Sives and Sophia Myles, who’s intriguingly unpredictable as Kate.
The performances are superb throughout, from Myles’ complex object of desire to Forlani’s scheming witch to Ewen Bremner (well, perhaps there is a bit of Trainspotting after all) as a cocky bellhop who shows Hallam the ropes.
He matches up well with Sophia Myles, whose girl-next-door affability keeps hinting at something more melancholic and disquieting – you believe her line about creepy guys.
… and Myles has never been better as the besuitted executive with hankerings for the dark side.
Rté entertainment online
His relationship with Myles’ character is one of cinemas more unusual offerings.
Bell and Myles – both doing credible Scottish accents – have great chemistry together and as Kate (who confesses to liking ‘creepy guys’), Myles’s performance is just as nuanced and complex as her co-star’s.
Hinds and Forlani play solid supporting roles, but this movie is very much about the acting depth of Bell and the it-girl status of Sophia Myles, an actress of such astonishing beauty that she is likely to be the new Keira Knightley. Myles can also act (she was the best part of Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential), and matches Bell shot for shot in their great scenes together.
Sophia Myles, regal. It is a testament to Myles’ acting abilities that her character Kate comes off as a full-bodied, damaged and complicated person as well, since she is somewhat shortchanged by the script and editing.
And Myles, as his mother’s lookalike, gives a refreshingly natural performance.
The New York Sun
Kate, who is radiant yet complex in Ms. Myles’s portrayal, is not who or what Hallam thinks she is – twice over.
Again, Bell is extraordinary, matched beautifully by Myles as the two futilely try to maneuver a common sexual relationship built on curiosity and embarrassment.
RusselK @ Play.com
Sophia Myles is truly stunning in this film and I think she is destined to become one of the UK’s finest actresses.
Quotes from Sophia
She’s an interesting mix. She’s got a very tough, business-like exterior, but on the other side there’s vulnerability and a softness that is torn out by the relationship with Hallam. She battles with her demons, and like we all do she has a light and some dark sides. The thing I like about Mackenzie’s films is that he is very honest about the human condition. He never ties anything up. It’s very ambiguous. It’s very honest.
What I like about David is that he deals with real people, he’s honest about the human condition and how we al battle with our demons on a daily basis. We don’t play black-and-white characters, they’ve all got their own battles going on inside their heads. For me, once my character Kate gets over the shock of seeing Hallam watching her every move, she sees an innocence and purity underneath it all.
Well, I think, as an actor – I mean, I make my living pretending to be someone else, so I think that element of kind of wearing a mask – which I think Kate does. I think she has a kind of professional mask that she puts on every day in the office, but it’s only through – it’s through Hallam’s eyes that the audience sees who she really is.
It really is a film that kind of deals with archetypal themes, you know? So it’s gonna have a profound effect on the human soul. I mean, it deals with the search for love. It’s about a voyage of self-discovery and growth, and also the fear of death. It’s going to make people think. And it will make them feel. How it’s gonna make them feel? I’m really not one to judge. But again, you know, the sexuality in the movie, it’s not – like, all of the sex scenes, they’re not there to be sexy. They’re not sensual.
Underneath it all, Kate’s intrigued by him because his approach to everything is so off the cart. She works in such a formulaic world… What I liked about it – and I don’t think you see this often – is that it’s a relationship between an older girl and a younger guy. It’s usually the other way around and if it’s our way round then she’s some sort of unattainable figure. I like the fact that they do get it together. It’s complicated.
… But underneath it all – there’s a purity there that I think she’s attracted to. And I also think she’s not stupid. And she knows that he’s gonna – you know, he’s gonna age well. You know, he’s got potential.
I’ve never done that before. But I absolutely loved the script from the word go, which is quite rare for me. I met David, and got on really well with him. Then I didn’t hear from him for a while – I think they were trying to get the financing together – but I was thinking, you can’t let this one go, you really can’t. So I sent him a little follow-up letter. I know the idea of begging for a job is terribly embarrassing, but I just wanted to be a part of it.
Jamie’s got such a magical quality about him and you want to watch him and be around him. He’s got a great energy, there’s just something about him. Because he was Billy Elliot he’s a national treasure! In the scene where Kate gets rip-roaringly drunk with Hallam I had to dance on my own in front of Billy Elliot which was pretty terrifying I have to say!
Jamie, as far as I’m concerned, is a national treasure. I would say he’s right up there at the top of my favorite co-stars, because in any scene between him and I, he’s so good and moving that all I had to do was just react to whatever he was doing. He’s made this seamless transition from child star to adult star without any of the rehab and all the nonsense.