Simon (Bostick) is an orphan teen raised by his slacker uncle Tom (Speedman).
When a teacher (Khanjian) assigns an exercise based on a news story, Simon's piece recounts how his Palestinian father (Jenkins in flashbacks) talked his pregnant violinist mother (Blanchard) into carrying a bomb onto an airliner.
Simon's fellow students are gripped by the issues this story raises, but once it's out there it has a life of its own. And no one's sure how much truth it contains.
This is a complex, tricky, layered story that uses storytelling to examine both dark emotions and current politics. There's nothing easy about it, and Egoyan challenges his audience to dig deeply into the topics and discover raw truths about how our personal histories are inter-connected. The film itself seems to flicker around in time, darting from the gritty to the surreal and only resolving into focus in the final act. But along the way, it's packed with evocative, haunting ideas.
Within such a swirling, insinuating story, the cast is remarkably authentic.
Bostick ably gives us a character we can identify with as he tries to honestly explore his own life through his art, then is cornered by people who misunderstand him. Khanjian is terrific as always as the grounded teacher with a shaded past, and Speedman delivers a terrific performance as a loser who's trying to do his best. Together, this trio creates an intriguing makeshift family with awkward connections and astute observations.
But what makes the film important is the way Egoyan puts huge issues into intimate context. Webcam chatrooms are the primary medium for news and expression. Christmas takes on a new meaning when the people celebrating are Jewish and Muslim. Conversations about terrorism and 9/11 grapple with concepts of heroism and tragedy. Would a suicide bombing mean something different if you knew the bomber personally? If you loved them? And as the plot reveals its secrets, the issues deepen further, boldly challenging the characters (and the audience) in unexpected ways.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th April 2009
Box Office USA: $93.5k
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Fresh: 60 Rotten: 38
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: Atom Egoyan
Producer: Atom Egoyan, Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss
Screenwriter: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Devon Bostick as Simon, Rachel Blanchard as Rachel, Louca Tassone as Young Simon, Kenneth Welsh as Morris, Yuval Daniel as Security Officer, Scott Speedman as Tom, Jeremy Wright as Delivery Guy, Arsinée Khanjian as Sabine