I'm an Atom Egoyan virgin. I've somehow floated past the solar system of his filmography (Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia's Journey, Ararat). But what a delightful little box of fear his newest, Adoration, is.
Adoration stars Devon Bostick as Simon, a Canadian high schooler who reveals to his classmates that his father (Noam Jenkins) was a would-be terrorist who used Simon's pregnant mother (Rachel Blanchard) as an unwitting accomplice in an attempt to blow up an airplane. The plot was averted — and so Simon was born — but the kid struggles with who he is and with the possible justification of his father's monstrous actions. He also masterminds conflict and confrontation on the subject in online video chat rooms between his classmates, their parents, and actual "survivors" of the failed terrorist action. He's a smart boy. He's also an orphan, his parents dead due to unclear circumstances.
Or perhaps the star is Arsinée Khanjian as Sabine, Simon's French-class teacher who encourages her pupil to explore his emotions with his dramatic reading of his nativity story. She may not be the most ethical of schoolteachers.
And then again, maybe the star is Scott Speedman as Tom, Simon's uncle (the brother of Simon's mom) and adopted father. Tom's dad (Kenneth Welsh) tells Simon that Tom "never figured out what his talent was except trouble and mischief." Speedman impresses as he juggles four frames of reference: uncertain father-guardian, grieving brother, and embattled son (the fourth I can't specify for spoiler reasons).
Adoration flips around in time like a bat. Often, films with screwy chronology do so to appear more profound than they are. But, Adoration does so to reveal further depth. By making the viewer's trek less certain, emotional causes and effects flow up and down and fit together just so. You eventually forget who's the most guilty and for what exactly. Simple cinema guilt — the fare of most movies — is blurred and enhanced into the complex common guilt of the real world. Adoration is a little like a Canadian Caché.
There are big ideas in the film: xeno-panic, the appeal of victimhood, the seduction of ideas, the tyranny of capitalism, the specter of terror, and the nature of terrorists. Adoration does more than touch on these but doesn't get distracted from the task at hand, a personal tour of one family's pain. The film perhaps climaxes with a quiet scene in which a Western man has a conversation with a Middle Eastern woman who's in a burqa and dramatic veil. They speak in a warm living room backlit by a Christmas tree, the Canadian winter swirling outside.
Adoration is like a multifaceted diamond, held aloft. The jewel is formed in the crucible of territorial pressures, and a slight turn reveals anew its origins: anger, hatred, fear, love, pain, familial angst, and regret. Oh, how I admire it.