Dysfunctional teen Hallam Foe lives life on the outside. Fleeing the family home for the streets of Edinburgh, he soon takes to the roofs, spying on pretty Kate Breck, who just happens to look like his mother. Fixing on to her life, Hallam insinuates himself into the hotel where she works. But her bully-boy suitor is already on his tail and while Hallam’s watching Kate, guess who’s watching him? So spins round a sordid story of lonely, disconnected lives.
Jamie Bell – leaving Billy Elliot far behind him – has matured as an actor. Hallam’s an intense, mercurial misfit, pretty much like Bell’s gun-toting teen in indie-flick Dear Wendy. Here, though, he brings an edgier quality – by turns slappable and sympathetic – to an unlovely portrait of angst-ridden lad. But it’s Sophie Myles who shines as the feisty but fractured Kate – seemingly strong but riven with an aching vulnerability. In a brave performance of physical and emotional depth, Myles provides the heart of the film as she did in Tristan + Isolde – yet again pipping the male star in the acting stakes.
In Hallam Foe, people are either helplessly self-destructive or participants in dysfunctional relationships. And writer-director Mackenzie pokes his camera into queasy places, the rain-soaked roofs of Edinburgh his vantage point for peeking into private spaces. Hardly a rom-com, more a Shakespearean tragi-com, lives collide, open up, shut down, hurt and heal. The mystery of Hallam’s mother is perhaps overplayed in an unlikely denouement, but the surreal is never far away in Hallam Foe – telegraphed from the off in a quirky animated title sequence.
Curious, poignant and painful, Hallam Foe is a bracing film - roving cameras and an obligatory soundtrack giving it a restless energy akin to Hallam’s own. It makes you long, with Hallam, for peace and reconciliation – after all, as Hamlet knew, the rest is silence.