Written & Directed by David Mackenzie
Mister Foe is one of those films in which subtext is everything, at least to me, and it's nearly impossible to discuss such things without giving away too much. So if you haven't seen this movie yet, I suggest you stop reading at the SPOILER ALERT break down below. Or don't. You're a big boy now. You can do what you want.
Hallam Foe is something of a big kid, seventeen and physically on the cusp of manhood but trapped in his solitary juvenile world as a result of his mother's drowning death a few years back. Most of his time is spent in his tree house--his fortress of solitude--from which he experiences the bulk of his social interaction. The problem is that the people he is interacting with don't know they are involved. You see, Hallam is a Peeping Tom, what the sympathetic call a voyeur.
I assumed that Mister Foe was a twisting psychological thriller, which is why I planned to review this movie here. But it turned out to be something altogether different. Although the synopsis given for this film elsewhere would have you believe that the plotline follows Hallam as he investigates his mother's death--possibly a suicide, possibly a murder committed by his new stepmother Verity--this is a minor point at best, one that kickstarts the rest of the film. When his suspicions come to light, Hallam is cast out from his home, and he is forced to live on the streets.
From his perch on the city's rooftops, he spies Kate, a beautiful blonde woman strolling the streets. She reminds Hallam of a certain someone, and so she becomes the focus of his secret attentions for the duration of the film.
Needing to be close to her, Hallam follows Kate and then pesters her into offering him a job. Having traded in his treehouse for a clock tower, Hallam's surroundings may have changed but his games remain the same. He watches Kate from his new crashpad without her knowledge or consent. Curiosity quickly spirals into obsession, and then blossoms into an unlikely romance.
Psychoanalysts would have a field day with this one. Although it plays itself out alternately salty and sweet, there is a slick sickness that underlies everything here. The person that Kate reminds Hallam of is, of course, his deceased mother. When he, at one point, breaks into her apartment and sniffs the dildo that he finds in her dresser, we know instinctively that it absolutely reeks of Oedipus.
Hallam's suspicion of Verity--a literal replacement of his mother--is counterbalanced by his lust for her, and before he strikes out into the city, the two of them engage in a sloppy, awkward sexual tryst. When this proves unfulfilling, he switches focus to a woman that looks strikingly like his mother, once again bedding down with her ghost. That she later learns of this perversion, and willingly goes along with it--going so far as to offer to put on his dead mother's dress!--speaks just as much about Kate as it does about Hallam.
Witness this verbal exchange, if you don't believe me:
Kate: "Do you have a love of your life?"
Hallam: "She's dead. Would you like to meet her?"
Kate: "I like creepy guys."
And, luckily for me, I like creepy movies. Even if they are creepy only in context, and not in execution. While not anything at all the movie I believed that I was going into, I was blown away by the deceptive beauty, sweetness and innocence on showcase here. Throw in a kick-ass animated opening credit sequence and a soundtrack that I absolutely must track down, and you've got one of the best surprises I have had in some time.
AKA: Hallam Foe
"I killed a man once. Smashed his skull on a pier. Just so ya know."