Who or what is Hallam Foe, you ask? Hallam, dear filmgoer, is a young chap, played by that kid from ‘Billy Elliot’, who we are supposed to find charming and likeable and sympathetic and quirky (cue David Shrigley’s opening credits and a soundtrack of Scottish indie-folk), even though he’s an unfathomable, slippery little sod whose character it’s easy to enjoy episodically but, ultimately, nigh on impossible to believe. For his fourth film after ‘The Last Great Wilderness’, ‘Young Adam’ and ‘Asylum’, Mackenzie has once again plumped for an adaptation, this time of Peter Jinks’ novel, and the dark side of sexual psychology. Oedipus wrecks, said Woody Allen; Oedipus sustains, says Mackenzie.
Hallam (Jamie Bell) is reeling over his mother’s death – apparently suicide – by spending a lot of time pretending to be a badger in the garden of his wealthy father’s (Ciarán Hinds) estate. He’s sure that his dad’s new woman, Verity (Claire Forlani) is behind his mother’s death, but still he has sex with her when she rubs his crotch. Perhaps wisely, Hallam escapes to Edinburgh, where he smiles more, lands a job in a hotel and has a romance with the hotel’s cute manager, Kate (Sophia Myles). Yet weirdness persists and he fills his evenings by clambering over rooftops and spying on women through windows.In a committed but unconvincing performance, Bell gives us creepy Hallam, feral Hallam, lucid Hallam, romantic Hallam, screwed-up Hallam and carefree Hallam. Each incarnation is a new chapter – only from entirely different books. Complex characters are desirable, but Hallam doesn’t add up. As a study of grief, this is silly and nonsensical. Taken less seriously, Mackenzie delivers a light dance over heavy issues, and the romance works – but how flippantly can we take death, grief and suicide?