By Matt Brunson
DIRECTED BY Atom Egoyan
STARS Arsinee Khanjian, Scott Speedman
Chance encounters and other extraordinary circumstances of this nature are tricky beasts when it comes to their employment in motion pictures. We swallow them when we want to swallow them — i.e. when the film in question has us completely in its grasp — but spit them out without even bothering to chew when we find them too artificial, when they're employed merely for the sake of convenience by a filmmaker who lazily needs to connect Plot Point A to Plot Point B.
Writer-director Atom Egoyan is by no stretch of the imagination a lazy filmmaker. The auteur behind the intriguing Erotica and the superb The Sweet Hereafter is a hard worker, and he requires the same amount of patience and understanding from discerning audiences willing to untangle the tales snaking through his elliptical works. Initially, Adoration seems as if it will honor the trust between moviemaker and moviewatcher, as the film moves backward and forward in time — and side to side in what's real and what's fabricated.
In a Canadian city, a French high school teacher named Sabine (Arsinee Khanjian, Egoyan's wife) reads a story about a foiled terrorist attack to her class, and one of her students, Simon (Devon Bostick), writes an essay in which he imagines his deceased parents, the Middle Eastern Sami (Noam Jenkins) and the Canadian Rachel (Rachel Blanchard), to be the terrorist and his unsuspecting wife. Sabine encourages Simon to pretend the story is real, partly as an exercise in gauging people's reactions (teens, parents and survivors all share their opinions via the Internet), and partly for personal reasons that don't become clear until late in the movie. Meanwhile, Simon continues to struggle with the possibility that, although his dad wasn't a terrorist, he might have deliberately killed both himself and Rachel. Tom (Scott Speedman), Simon's uncle and legal guardian, remains silent on the subject, tortured by his own demons.
Adoration is a serious, sober work that touches on such hot-button issues as xenophobia, the role of the Internet in decimating information (real or false), the cycle of hatred passed down through generations, and the post-9/11 climate of fear that still grips this world. But perhaps because he is tackling so much, Egoyan relies on cringe-inducing coincidences and cheap theatrics to occasionally carry him over the humps. This is especially noticeable in the character of Sabine, whose presence becomes more pronounced — and more ludicrous — as the movie proceeds. Adoration may be driven by Egoyan's usual weighty concerns, but too often it operates on cruise control.