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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.91%
Worth A Look43.48%
Average: 30.43%
Pretty Bad: 2.17%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Felicia's Journey
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Greg Muskewitz

"The 'why' I want to be a Canadian."
5 stars

Back in 1997, as I was making up my Top 10 list, most things seemed to fall right in place, except when it came to David Lynch's "Lost Highway" vs Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter." For the longest time they were neck and neck, but Lynch's film beat it out (and is also reigning champ of my favorite film EVER!), but "The Sweet Hereafter" still follows hauntingly close behind. Again, as it's nearing the end of the year, I have Lynch vs Egoyan, with "The Straight Story" and "Felicia's Journey," and Felicia just may prevail!

I had seen Atom Egoyan's latest film "Felicia's Journey" months before I saw the actual theatrical trailer, which I've seen only recently. One of the most intriguing sensibilities of this "Journey" was learning everything at the same time the characters were. There was no dramatic irony, at least not on my part, but when watching the preview, I was dismayed by how much plot it gave away. It works better knowing less about the plot, less about the characters, and that's how I will introduce the film.

Felicia (Elaine Cassidy) is a 17-year-old Irish girl who lives with her father and bed-ridden grandmother. She's innocent and is easily swayed by the tenderness and affection shown to her by Johnny Lysaght (Peter McDonald). She believes they're in love, and over a short passage of time, she becomes pregnant. Her father already dislikes Johnny, but when he finds out that he's planning on joining the British Army (a big no-no for Irish), he forbids Felicia to see him. When he discovers her pregnancy, he disowns her ("You're carrying the enemy within you.").

Soon Johnny is leaving, supposedly to get a job in England's industrial Midlands, and he leaves Felicia without any information. When she tries to go to his mother for help, she shuns Felicia, with no shame. Felicia takes it upon herself to find some way to England and hopefully find Johnny along her way. Upon her arrival, Felicia meanders around, not knowing where to look, and is briefly helped by a robust old man called Hilditch (Bob Hoskins). Within a short period of time, the two run into each other again, purely coincidentally, and he begins to take more of an interest in her. With his promises of help for searching and rooting out Johnny, both parties begin to get in over their heads.

On the exterior, Hilditch seems to be a pretty decent guy, and on the interior, it looks the same. He's a caterer, and the in-depth look you get at his life is quite amusing. Each night he prepares large and expansive dinners, following instructions from an old 1950s cooking show, which we find out is hosted by his mother Gala (Arsinée Khanjian). These formal dinners are prepared for his solitary enjoyment, and the house in which he lives -- the same house in which the show was filmed -- holds a lot of mystery in it, as well as old artifacts and merchandise endorsed by Gala herself. What both of the characters share in common is that neither sees his or her true self. But "the pain will wash away, the healing will commence."

There's a real psychological element to this film which boosts and provides most of its evocative and startling nature. There is much behind these characters, especially the psyche of Hilditch. Director Atom Egoyan goes about the evolution of the film very gently and very subtly. You sense that there may be more than meets the eye, but until you can see it for yourself, there is no way to assure yourself. Certain elements that the preview whisks out seems to disregard some of the mystery that shrouds the film.

Egoyan has always been one for examining people -- their motivations, struggles, interests, etc. -- and he approaches it with a very cool sense of calm. He eloquently assembled "The Sweet Hereafter" in 1997, and that is one of the most heart-wrenching films ever. "Felicia's Journey" isn't quite as tragic, though it holds up right next to it. I like the way Egoyan quietly dissects his subjects, and his style is one of the more recently memorable. He weaves his stories as a reccuring narrative, with brief flashes and snippets from the past, adding detail and depth. There are stunning visual shots, just of open Earth and land, and cinematographer and Egoyan-staple Paul Sarossy enriches the visual experience and texture of the film. Past and current collaborator Mychael Danna composes some of the most haunting yet stimulating music to grace the screen, which only helps to separate this from any other film.

Elaine Cassidy and Bob Hoskins turn in two of the strongest performances of the year. As the months and weeks get closer to December and Oscar time, it's as if each week brings out more and more possibilities for the long shot. Egoyan was nominated in 1997 for Best Director, and an impression he is. Hopefully, though the chances are scant, the film will draw the amount of attention to itself that it deserves. Cassidy is fairly new, but her portrayal is so emotionally driven; it's a milestone for her career, and it's just at the start. Hoskins is also very focused, and without revealing too much about his character, the neglect he has received has formed him into a complex and disturbing man -- although seemingly harmless. Egoyan's direction and screenplay are two of the strongest in their respects as well, and the overall effect is mesmerising. Not only does it fit in the category of one of my favorite films of the year, but with the skill, dexterity and provocativeness in which this is executed, it is also one of the very best films of the year!

Final Verdict: A+

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originally posted: 11/16/99 18:51:16
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User Comments

4/07/03 Jack Sommersby One of the finest depictions of a serial murderer. Hoskins is extraordinary. 5 stars
4/18/01 Franncisco Peña Excelent and moving picture 5 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy Egoyan's worst, long and tedious. 2 stars
5/26/00 Monday Morning Atom's trying to be Alfred but falls embarassingly short. 3 stars
5/21/00 Jamie Bialkower A creepy, brilliantly acted, disturbing film. 4 stars
2/12/00 Skye Chapman hoskins!! way more talented than mr. ripley 5 stars
12/08/99 Heather Egoyan turns out another deep, thught provoking masterpiece 5 stars
11/17/99 Tha Ever So Weary Assistant The best "art film," but yet most unlike one all year! 5 stars
11/14/99 MrShowbiz Egoyan fires a blank. Perhaps the most thoughtful movie you shouldn't see this year. 3 stars
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Directed by
  Atom Egoyan

Written by
  William Trevor
  Atom Egoyan

  Bob Hoskins
  Elaine Cassidy
  Arsinée Khanjian
  Peter McDonald

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