VOD film review: Guest of Honour
James R | On 06, Jun 2020
Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: David Thewlis, Laysla De Oliveira
Watch Guest of Honour online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema
David Thewlis is one of the most underrated British actors around – not because he’s not known for doing good work, but because his work is so good that when you do watch him act, you barely even notice. Any chance to see him get a deserved leading role, then, is always worth checking out – but Guest of Honour, the latest from Atom Egoyan, tests that to the limit.
He plays Jim, a health inspector in Hamilton, who trundles through life on his own, heading from restaurant to restaurant and finding them falling short of health code standards. The reason he’s alone is wrapped up in his daughter, Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira), a former high school music teacher who has been serving a prison sentence.
To explain what for spoils, to some degree, the puzzle-box plot but also pulls at a thread that becomes too complicated to explain here – a sign of how tangled Egoyan’s drama becomes. What begins as a study of a father-daughter bond haunted by trauma and buried resentment turns into an investigative thriller, as flashbacks take us back through Veronica’s relationships with her pupils and even further back to Jim’s own behaviour around her music teacher when she was young.
There are flashes of intrigue but they’re smothered by the script, which weaves and turns through twists that are determined to perplex and surprise, no matter how illogical they become. The result is at once overwrought and unconvincing, from a moral righteousness that’s never believable to motivations that are inconsistent.
Laysla De Oliveira does her best with her character, but not even an appearance by Luke Wilson as a priest can help her sell a framing device that’s more distracting than moving. And so we’re left spending our time with Thewlis, whose presence is compelling and touchingly frail. Any moment spent with him is worthwhile, but the standalone sequences of him in messy kitchens only wind up feeling unconnected to the rest of it. It’s wonderful to see him in a leading role, but you suspect even his food inspector would give this undercooked effort the thumbs down.
Guest of Honour is available to rent on Curzon Home Cinema.