Bell Tower

Film In David Mackenzie's, Hallam Foe (which I saw during a preview tonight), Jamie Bell plays a slightly eccentric young man with peeping tom tendencies attempting to get over the death of his mother. He's kicked out of the big house his father (Ciarán Hinds) shares with a new young wife (a reptilian Claire Forlani) when he accuses her of murder and seeks his fortune in Edinburgh were he meets and becomes obsessed with a hotel staff manager, Sophia Myles, who is a dead ringer for his dead mum.

This is a warm hearted and sympathetic piece of work, never quite tipping over into the needless quirkiness which the title suggests and offering Bell's best ever work, a multi-layered portrayal of someone who's inherently shy but putting on a front in order to survive. That could also be a decent description for Myles character too -- she has both and private facades -- and once again the actress demonstrates just how underrated she is (this time showing off her Scottish accent) and what a loss to our industry when she's off in the US doing network television.

The third star though is the landscape, both in the highlands and Edinburgh in a slight return to the underworld seen in Trainspotting. Bell spends much of his time on the rooftops of the city and like Boyle's film we're presented with a side of place totally missed by the festival tourists. When he gains employment in a hotel we never meet the guests who's presence instead is signaled through dirty dishes and over-abundant luggage.

Giles Nuttgens's photography comes into its own at night, as like the little matchstick girl, Bell looks into the glowing windows of apartments from the cold darkness outside. As cityscapes go, Edinburgh is one of the best and it's refreshing to see the story not simply being defaulted to London and for this unfamiliar place being used in a kind of non-specific way in a film which isn't necessarily about Scotland. Indeed with it's slightly continental storytelling it could have worked just as well in Paris or Madrid.

Hallam Foe was unfairly treated by the critics when it opened the Edinburgh Film Festival some of whom suggested it teases more than it delivers which is a nonsense given that it never tries to present easy answers to its questions of psychological ultimately noting that nothing in life is ever truly resolved, there's always some emotional niggle left handing. If the film dips towards melodrama at its climax, within the rest of its pleasingly short running time, it's a charming, warm and funny piece of work which suggests that even though you'll never get exactly what you want out of life, some people will leave you along the way, but that in the end, that's ok.

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