Not a great title, "Hallam Foe," but it's a juicy character for the talented and increasingly ubiquitous Jamie Bell to run with. It's a showy part, but the movie ably supports it with splendid use of Edinburgh, Scotland's cityscapes, a basket full of startling surprises in the screenplay and characters without a fleck of sentimentality. With muscular marketing, the highly entertaining movie, written (with Ed Whitmore) and directed by David Mackenzie, could move beyond the art house niche in Europe and North America.
Rock bottom, what is going on beneath the crowded and quite funny surface of this film, is a lad going through hell following the sudden death of his mother. Hallam (Bell) has one question about her drowning in the lake next to the family's country home: Was it an accident? If not, he has a suspect: Verity (Claire Forlani), his dad's seductive secretary, who married Julius Foe (Ciaran Hinds) much too quickly following his mother's death.
His grief and anger express themselves in odd ways. Retreating to an elaborate childhood tree house, Hallam takes to spying on his dad and new wife through binoculars. Then one day, a fed-up Verity climbs into his tree house and seduces him! That's some stepmother.
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