Tag Archives: Voyeurism

Mister Foe (Hallam Foe) (2007)

Mister Foe (2008)

Welcome to the life of Brit teen Hallam Foe (Jamie Bell), whose many odd habits include using his late mother’s makeup as war paint and turning a pair of binoculars on women breastfeeding babies, sexual acts and whatever else he can find.

Ever since his mum, Sarah, was found at the bottom of the loch beside their home, Hallam has refused to consider the incident a suicide but instead blames dad’s new wife Verity. Plus, he lusts after new mom despite his suspicions and writes about his fantasies up in the tree house where he has decided to live. Malajusted doesn’t begin to cover it.

When a violent confrontation with step-mom turns disturbingly intimate, Hallam decides to bail from his family’s large estate and flee the repercussions. He ends up in the city, sleeping in a derelict part of the hotel and making money working a grimy kitchen job.

When he meets a woman who resembles (who else?) dear dead mum, he turns his voyeuristic gaze toward her and becomes involved in a nasty sexual triangle of blackmail and adultery, all while trying to get Verity turned in for the murder he is convinced took place.

Jamie Bell, who has done quite a bit of growing since his role as a ballet-dancing youngster in Billy Elliot, turns in an excellent performance as a clearly disturbed young man who veers between creepy beyond redemption and pitifully sad.

I was surprised by a reviewer’s claim that this film was inferior to the slightly silly Shia LeBeouf thriller Disturbia. While decently made, the latter film had a certain tackiness that made it hard to take seriously. The director treats the story of Mister Foe with a seriousness that helps the viewer buy into it.

If I had detected a smirk in the production, it would have sunk fast. Although this movie is ultimately has a riskier construction, is more disquieting, and has better-drawn characters than Disturbia, it was not without scenes of ridiculous implausibility. To prove my point, ladies, I present a scenario.

    The Situation: An unbalanced young man grabs you by the throat and accuses you of murder.
Your Reaction:
a. Try to talk some sense into him.
b. Fight your assailant by poking his eyes, pushing, or kicking him in the balls.
c. Jerk away and scream for help.
d. Consider his closeness liberation for your lust and grope him.

Only a die-hard masochist would pick d, so when the normally rational Verity uses the situation as a chance to cross forbidden boundaries, the originally disturbing situation becomes perversely silly. Do things like that happen outside of S&M soap operas?

I’ve always been a sucker for cinema that avoids formula, so I’ll give the gaping problems in the film a break. I’d say the best thing about the whole movie was Bell, who is an actor worth watching. The director? We’ll see.

By the end, the scarily intriguing character of Hallam avoids seemingly inevitable catastrophe, and the viewer thinks the story would have probably ended in a disaster similar to Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen. Like Ben XMister Foe takes the happy route, but since that it’s unlikely to happen except through a director’s mercy, it seems a hollow victory.
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Buddy Boy (1999)

Buddy Boy, Mark Hanlon’s debut, is a haunting and potent film about dead end lives that provokes more questions than answers but remains bizarrely interesting throughout.

The film provides a look into the surrealistic existence of emotionally stunted, stuttering misfit Francis (Aidan Gillen), who lives with his trollish invalid stepmother (actual amputee Susan Tyrrell), in a squalid apartment.

Suffering from overwhelming guilt concerning his sexuality, his religion, and himself, he goes to confession monthly, admitting every impure thought and indiscretion. The contrast between faith and the id is revealed in the opening, which presents the viewer with a montage of religious imagery followed by Francis, uh… pleasuring himself to a pair of voluptuous breasts in a magazine.

Like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, this is the high point of his day, which soon descends into woeful monotony. He finds a new pasttime in spying on his attractive neighbor Gloria (Emmanuelle Seigner, controversial Polish director Roman Polanski’s wife) through a hole in his apartment.

Then they meet. Gloria is strangely attracted to Francis, which would be unfeasible if she weren’t clearly lonely and desperate too. She tells him she is a vegan, a word he doesn’t understand, but he catches on. According to her, she doesn’t care what he eats, but then she buys him a “Meat Is Murder” t-shirt, which is a mixed message if I ever saw one. This further accentuates the character’s conflicting beliefs and desires.

Gloria is pretty and nice, too nice, and Francis begins believing irrational things about her pastimes, focusing on her eating habits. Meanwhile he becomes increasingly psychotic (?) and has a falling out with God. Is Francis going insane? Or is meat back on the menu? Buddy Boy is an enigma — although declared a religious allegory by IMDB users it at times seems to be making a statement against Christianity.

In fact Francis spends so much time obsessing about his masturbating, sinning ways that the viewer wishes the poor guy would just snap out of it. The movie is a triumph of atmosphere — the bleakness and decay of Francis and Sal’s apartment is palpable, while Gloria’s big-windowed, pleasingly green abode seems to spell change for the troubled young man.

The problem, it seems, is the vast contrast in acting styles between Aidan Gillen (Francis) and Susan Tyrrell (his stepmom, Sal). Gillen, from the GLBTQ show Queer as Folk (which I haven’t seen), plays his character sensitively and gently, as a fundamentally benevolent albeit strange outcast damaged by trauma and psychosis. Susan Tyrrell plays his abusive stepmom more like a SNL skit. Maybe her broad performance is the fault of the material.

When an actress’ character is scripted to beat a plumber over the head with her artificial leg (one of the stranger scenes in this story), maybe there isn’t much room for subtlety. Buddy Boy, nevertheless, is an intriguing first feature and a fascinating story.

It walks a fine line between being campy and profound, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like the humanization of Francis, a character who might be written off as a scummy voyeur, or worse, as white trash. It raises interesting questions, contains twists, and transports you, which is something films should accomplish, but rarely do.