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CIFF: "Hallam Foe" and "Stuck"

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 7, 2007 6:30PM

This is part of Chicagoist's continuing coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival.

2007_10hallamfoe.jpg A major letdown from the director of Young Adam, this movie from Scotland centers around an odd young man named Hallam Foe (played by Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot), who's obsessed with two things: his dead mother and spying on people. When he's driven away from the family home in the Highlands, he heads to Edinburgh, where he promptly meets a young woman who looks exactly like his mother (!) and inserts himself in her life. Affecting performances from Bell and Sophia Myles do little to cover the movie's wild shifts in tone and occasional and unnecessary arty touches.

Unless a whimsical coming-of-age dramedy about incest sounds like your cup of tea, we suggest you skip the movie and instead buy the amazing soundtrack, which has cuts by the likes of Orange Juice, Junior Boys, Clinic, Hood and Franz Ferdinand.

On the other hand, Stuck is the first must-see film at this year's festival.

2007_10stuck.jpg Based, believe it or not, on a true story, this is a disturbing, funny suspense thriller which left us breathless. It stars Mena Suvari (American Beauty) as a desperate, drug-addled nursing home aide and an especially terrific Stephen Rea (The Crying Game), as an unemployed white-collar worker. Their lives literally collide late one night when, after a few too many drinks (and pills) at the High and Low Lounge, she hits him with her car as he's crossing the street. The accident leaves him bleeding, unconscious ... and lodged in her windshield. Panicking, she drives home and leaves the car in her garage. Without calling for help. She's just been offered a promotion at work and realizes this could jeopardize her future. Rea comes to and slowly realizes that he's at her mercy.

Chicago native Stuart Gordon takes a far-fetched premise and makes it sizzle, with expert pacing and some cracking dialog courtesy of screenwriter John Strysik. He throws in some oblique political jabs for good measure. And because it's the director of Re-Animator we're talking about, there's plenty of blood and grisly humor to go around. The way Gordon shuffles our sympathies between the various characters is something Hitchcock would admire; one moment we're rooting for Rea to somehow escape, the next we're anxious for Suvari to get her promotion.

It's a high-octane twist on Lady in a Cage, and the audience at Saturday night's screening ate it up. Gordon was in attendance for a Q & A afterwards, where he revealed that he's working on a script based on The Devil in the White City's serial killer H.H. Holmes. One man asked, "Do you think that we, the audience, laughed at the gore because it makes us uncomfortable?"

Gordon wryly answered, "I don't know why you sick fucks were laughing at it."

Hallam Foe screens on 10/8 and 10/9; Stuck screens on 10/7 and 10/12. Call the festival hotline at 312-332-FILM for details.(Images via The Telegraph and