It's really hard to describe David Mackenzie's new film, Hallam Foe, without missing out something really vital. The story of a soon-to-be 18 year old boy who's still struggling to come to terms with the death of his mother, Hallam has retreated from the world and views it almost exclusively via binoculars, spying on his neighbours and family. After a confrontation with his hated stepmother, Hallam runs away to Edinburgh where he gets a job in the same hotel as a young woman who looks very much like his dead mother.
There's also a badgerskin headpiece involved, lipstick, a dress, and a lot of rooftops. The badger is sort of vital, but it's very difficult to explain why.
I first saw Hallam Foe last October, at a blogger preview of a rough cut of the film, and struggled to describe it then too, but it's slightly easier after the passage of a few months and time to digest what it's all about. I said then:
It's partly about reaching maturity, partly about sexual awakening, partly about coming to terms with death, partly about the nature of love, partly about the boundaries between private and public.
It's also about the hidden places of the world: rooftops, clock towers, and those bits of your mind that maybe you don't want to expose to the light.
Much as I enjoyed watching Hallam Foe last year, I enjoyed it a lot more this time round. I discovered last summer that I have a pretty strong phobia of precipitous edges such as cliffs, and as Hallam spends a lot of time climbing about the rooftops of Edinburgh I spent much of the film worrying that he'd fall off. Second time round, I knew that he doesn't, so I could just relax and enjoy the film.
I can't say that I noted any significant differences between the cut we saw last night and the one we saw in October. The sound was more polished, and the sountrack and titles finished, but to me those were details. Jamie Bell and Sophia Miles both give such fabulous performances, with Jamie in particular playing Hallam in such a way that you end up feeling a lot of sympathy for a character who starts off the film as someone really quite hard to like. As Jamie said in the Q&A afterwards, Hallam is arrogant and distant to start with, but by the closing scene of the film, you're really fully behind him.
Colin Kennedy, who writes the Hallam Foe blog, was there last night filming the Q&A, at least until Gia turned the tables on him, getting Jamie to take the camera and asking Colin the final question of the evening. I'm looking forward to seeing all that online soon!
After the Q&A, (which I didn't live blog, but did live Tweet), we went on to a drinks and nibbles at Kettners. As always, it was fun to see all the bloggers there, but it was also really lovely to be able to talk to David, who's a sweet and gracious man, and to meet Jamie, who was delightful.
I must confess, though, that the highlight of my evening was talking to David's brother Alastair, who used to play Archie in Monarch of the Glen. It's always slightly strange to meet people whose face is so familiar that you would recognise it anywhere, but about whom you know absolutely nothing. Alastair is just the most lovely man, who turns out to have a real passion for food and blogging. I don't know if he has a blog, (I couldn't find one), but he really ought to get one!
Hallam Foe is finally getting its theatrical release on 31 August, and I can't recommend it highly enough. This is such a wonderful, funny film – sometimes sweet sometimes sour but always heartfelt – and possibly one of the best films to have come out of the UK in years. It's right up there with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and it doesn't have a single zombie or Spaced reference in it.
Although it does have a badgerskin headpiece.