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David Thewlis stars here, and it is only the absolute conviction of his performance that saves this from being an utter misfire – a misfire of the sort that, sadly, the once great film-maker Atom Egoyan keeps on giving us. As it is, Guest of Honour is merely a bafflingly strained and unconvincing melodrama with some awful acting. It also has to be said that this has worrying echoes of Egoyan’s excruciating 2008 film Adoration in that both feature a teacher who gets her pupils into a really dangerous situation but never shows the smallest guilt, and behaves as if she is sorrowingly pained by other people’s moral failings.
Thewlis plays Jim, a British expatriate in Canada employed as a food inspector. His daughter, Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira), is a music teacher who is now in prison for a sexual offence with teenage pupils that she did not commit (but deliberately gave every impression of committing) and confessed to, supposedly because she wanted to punish herself for something else. That is related to her father’s apparent adulterous relationship with her own music teacher when she was a girl, a toxic memory that tragically poisoned her own relationship with this teacher’s son.
Nothing in this bizarrely tangled, garbled backstory is convincing, De Oliveira’s performance is inert and somnambulist – though this is more the fault of the script and direction – and the drama of the sex offence itself is uncomfortable and wrong in all sorts of ways. But Thewlis keeps the film from sinking completely: the haunted, unhappy man resigned to his unjust burden of guilt and shame.
• Guest of Honour is available on Curzon Home Cinema from 5 June.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Guest of Honour review – tangled melodrama of guilt and shame | Film