Adoration (15)

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The Independent Culture

The Canadian-Egyptian auteur Atom Egoyan could never be damned for a lack of ambition, but lately he has forsaken the mysterious layering of his best work (Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter) for portentous inquiries into cultural identity (Ararat).

This new one tries hard to deliver something complicated and ends up tying itself in knots. A Toronto student (Devon Bostick), encouraged by his French teacher (Arsinée Khanjian), writes a story of "monstrous betrayal" about his late parents. He pretends that his Muslim father planted a bomb in the luggage of his Christian (and pregnant) wife that would have killed her and a planeload of innocent people. The boy's classmates are shocked by the story, which quickly gains notoriety once it reaches internet chatrooms. Egoyan has hold of serious material – the overlay of past on present, the influence of a bigoted patrimony, the conflict between perception and reality – but it is untidily stitched into the narrative, crushing any illusion of spontaneity and loading the dialogue with heavy-duty didacticism. At times we seem to be watching an illustrated lecture rather than a drama of ideas, and decent performances by Khanjian and Scott Speedman, as the student's uncle, fail to hide a hollowness at its centre.