Felicia's Journey [1999]

Like Hitchcock, Atom Egoyan envisions family life as a potential hotbed of literal or figurative violence and incest. In Felicia's Journey, Egoyan's adaptation of William Trevor's shattering novel, one dreads to imagine what TV-cook mom (Arsinée Khanjian) did to so damage her pudgy son that grown- up Hilditch (Bob Hoskins) still prepares meals in perfect unison with faded videotapes of her show--and, as we eventually discover, often takes more sinister trips down Memory Lane. Distant kin to Psycho's Tony Perkins, Hoskins's troll is so obsessive, so traumatized, his every short-armed, fat-handed gesture and sing-song utterance is precisely calculated to keep reality safely buried. Egoyan's movies often seem located underwater, in some surreal dreamscape where one's breath is perpetually suspended while a slow horror seeps ever deeper under the skin. Helpless, transfixed, one watches as his characters drive inexorably toward mined intersections where lives and souls may be lost or redeemed. When Hilditch's path crosses, diverges from, and finally coincides with that of young, pregnant Felicia (Elaine Cassidy)--an Irish innocent searching for her errant boyfriend--it leads to terrible epiphany for these fellow travelers. Trouble is, creepy Hilditch and too-naive Felicia come up a bit short in the psychological complexity department, so by film's end, revelatory payoffs are mostly penny ante. Felica's Journey tours familiar Egoyan territory--an industrialized wasteland full of hungry hearts--but this latest fairy tale (think perverse variations on Hansel and Gretel) isn't in the same league with such "family values" masterpieces as Exotica or The Sweet Hereafter. --Kathleen Murphy

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