Guest of Honour (Atom Egoyan, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman

The subtext of Atom Egoyan’s latest mid-late-career work is that you shouldn’t be mean to people online—a plaint that looks retrospectively prophetic in light of the film’s Venice reception, which included an attempted murder in the pages of Variety. Suffice it to say that Guest of Honour is not nearly so bad as all that, and that it has two indisputable things going for it. The first is that no matter how obsessively (or self-consciously? or satirically?) Egoyan reworks his perennial themes of guilt, surveillance, assimilation and (especially) daddy-daughter awkwardness, it’s been placed here in a unique configuration: I promise you you’ve not seen this exact plot before (I counted three embedded framing devices, two mysterious deaths, one multilingual Arsinée Khanjian cameo, and about as many rabbits per capita as Us). The second virtue is the acting of David Thewlis, whose uptight food inspector, clutching his PASS/FAIL badges with the moral dudgeon of a Medieval inquisitor, is a fascinating, inscrutable creation. Like The Captive and Remember, Guest of Honour is sort of a ridiculous movie, and yet the things holding it together—above all its maker’s faith in the principles and possibilities of narrative as a restless, ever-shifting experiment in architecture—are worth taking seriously.