Magnolia Pictures // 2008 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 26th, 2008
Some people see life differently.
Jamie Bell (King Kong) is the titular Mister Foe, a voyeur-turned-romantic, wandering the roofs of Edinburgh looking at hot Human Resources women through binoculars. Story of my life.
Bell is Hallam Foe, a young man who's not quite playing with a full deck. He suspects his stepmother (Claire Forlani) may have had something to with the death of his mother and his father boots him out of the house. Hallam ends up in Edinburgh, working as a porter in a hotel, secretly pining after the hotel's comely HR rep (Sophia Myles) and nurturing his voyeurism habit.
He can't quite shake the emotional trauma of his mother's death, and the wounds carry over into his new life. As he tries desperately to start a relationship with his crush, the burden weighs him down and Hallam's complicated life spins off into a crazy mess of Oepidal neuroses, paranoia and family dysfunction. Good times!
Actually, I mean it. Good times. Mister Foe is a rock-solid little movie, powered by Jamie Bell's remarkable performance and captivating storyline. Big themes are tackled here, what with all the grieving and emotional anguish and voyeurism, the attitude is surprisingly light-hearted. It's not a laugh-a-thon of course and there is plenty of hardcore melodrama to be found, but director David Mackenzie (who also co-wrote) injects a touch of charm to the affair, keeping what could have been an oppressively dark film buoyant enough to escape the stranglehold of all-out bad tidings.
I referred to Jamie Bell's performance as remarkable and for good reason -- it's not easy to take a grubby, spoiled peeping tom and turn him into a sympathetic character, but that's what Bell does. The guy has mastered the art of the tortured soul with a heart of gold (or at least high quality cubic zirconium) and applies that skill-set with gusto here. This is critical as Mister Foe is primarily concerned with Hallam's personal journey and his attempt to purge himself of the emotional scarring that's built-up. If that performance flounders, then the film dies, but the opposite is true as Bell delivers the goods.
Sophia Myles does some great stuff as well as the object of Hallam's slightly weird obsession. She too is flawed and is grappling with her own brand of malfunction, unable to enter into a healthy relationship. "I like creepy guys," she says to Hallam, which both gives us a look into her story and a believable avenue for the two to start their tumultuous relationship, considering Hallam doesn't ever change his clothes and I'm pretty sure never took a shower during the entire film.
So it's a complex film dealing with complex feelings of betrayal and despair and features flawed characters right down to the dishwasher that Hallam works with (he killed a man by smashing his head on a pier apparently). What's really cool about Mister Foe is the fact that, in the end, it's a feel-good movie. I'm not talking about a happy ending or anything formulaic -- the film is far too real and complicated to crap out on a lovey-dovey denouement -- but a genuinely encouraging finale that unambiguously wraps Hallam's story.
The film gets a clean, if slightly washed-out (stylistic choice I think) 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a lively 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix that brings the lively soundtrack to life. A handful of deleted scenes that flesh out some of the secondary stories and a solid behind-the-scenes featurette are your extras.
Well-acted and engaging throughout, Mister Foe is definitely worth a look.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes