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Scott Speedman as Tom in ADORATION (Photo: Sophie Giraud/Sony Pictures Classics)

Written & Directed by
Atom Egoyan
Produced by
Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss & Egoyan
Released by Sony Pictures Classics
Canada. 100 min. Rated R
Arsinée Khanjian, Scott Speedman, Rachel Blanchard, Devon Bostick, Kenneth Welsh & Noam Jenkins 

Grief, guilt, accountability, and memory—Atom Egoyan brings his recurring themes to bear on one family in Adoration. The film starts out with one of those notorious school projects that blow up beyond the classroom. Lebanese-born French teacher Sabine (Arsinée Khanjian, Egoyan's wife and frequent star) presents a provocative translation exercise—a news report of the infamous 1986 incident of the Jordanian who planted a bomb in the luggage of his pregnant fiancée for a flight from London to Israel. The assignment personally resonates with one of her students, Simon (Devon Bostick). Sabine encourages him to explore further the feelings the story provoked in him by developing a monologue for a school assembly.

Simon intensely empathizes because of his experiences as a biracial orphan. He remembers his blonde mother, Rachel (Rachel Blanchard), idyllically playing her violin, and dreams alternative versions of what her relationship was like with his Arab father, Sami (Noam Jenkins). In between, he flashes back to the last conversation he videotaped with his bitter, dying grandfather (Kenneth Welsh), who blames the family’s problems on his daughter's husband, insisting his poisoned interpretation of their history is definitive.

A teenager privately struggling with his identity snowballs into controversy when a video of his monologue gets posted on a social networking Web site. His computer screen fills with interacting talking heads—his fellow students, their outraged parents, victims of hate crimes and genocide who bond into a commiserating community of their own, and then those who flaunt their prejudices.

Simon's already overwhelmed guardian, his uncle Tom (Scott Speedman), is nonplussed by all the attention. But Tom then is pushed even further to examine his residual attitudes towards his brother-in-law and Muslims by the teacher, in prodding that seems too theatrical and extreme and barely justified by a plot twist revelation. Speedman practically hides his handsome visage behind long hair and beard for much of the film, and gives what may be his best performance since Isabel Coixet’s My Life Without Me

Egoyan uses the creative team from many of his films and weaves together signature elements—the aftermath of a crash (The Sweet Hereafter), crossing-over of identities (Where the Truth Lies), communication through technology (Felicia's Journey), and a family haunted by its past (Ararat)His sister Eve plays gorgeous piano in Mychael Danna's beautiful score.

But after all the arty flashbacks and the brouhaha around larger social issues (Christmas decorations take on a very heavy symbolism), Adoration quietly comes down to the relationships between the members of one family, slowly coping with the truth, forgiveness, and healing. The fine acting surmounts the didactic plot construction to make this reconciliation finally touching. Nora Lee Mandel
May 8, 2009



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