Cinema Clash podcast: Radioactive; Yes, God, Yes; The Rental

Quickie Review: Guest of Honour

Somewhere in this movie from director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) is a decent story, but you really have to work to find it. It’s a father-daughter melodrama about Jim (David Thewlis – The Harry Potter series) and Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira) that cuts back and forth in time as she tells a priest (Luke Wilson- Legally Blonde, Rushmore) the story of their lives so he can deliver Jim’s eulogy. Jim is a lonely food inspector who spends his days testing the temperature of meat and hunting under kitchen cabinets for rat droppings. Veronica is a music teacher who willingly goes to jail for a crime she didn’t commit out of a sense of guilt for something she did do. He visits her in jail and tries to understand why. She can’t forgive him for a transgression she misunderstood in childhood. Ultimately, it’s a bleak and not very coherent story buoyed ever so slightly by David Thewlis’s nuanced performance.

The jumping around in time is sometimes a bit confusing, but mainly the film lands in Veronica’s childhood, her teacher years, her jail years, and the present. As a kid she sees her dad hold hands with her music teacher while her mom is gravely ill. That leads to her allow a fire to kill said teacher and later the teacher’s son by suicide. Years later when she is the music teacher on a road trip with the high school band, she pranks the bus driver with a couple of the boys, which turns into an accusation of inappropriate sex with a minor, and rather than fight it she goes to jail, in penance for what she did to her teacher. Meanwhile Dad goes about his inspection business and comes home to the pet rabbit named Benjamin he’s keeping for Veronica while she’s in the slammer. It’s only through talking with the priest that she finally sees her father in a different light, but it’s too late. And that’s how I felt about this film that I kept hoping would redeem itself, but after two full hours it never really did. This is one to skip.

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