Hallam Foe

by Suw on October 9, 2006

One of the hardest parts of the film making process, as any aspiring scriptwriter will tell you, is describing your film to people who haven't seen it. When I was a regular on Zoetrope, we'd frequently have discussions about writing the logline (a one or two sentence description) and pitch (one or two paragraphs) for our scripts. I was uniformly rubbish at loglines and pitches, and I discovered that it actually gets harder the closer you get to finishing your script. By the time my own feature film script, Tag, was complete, it had basically become impossible for me to figure out how on earth to describe it, other than 'unfilmable'.
It was was no little sympathy, therefore, that I listened to David Mackenzie introduce his nearly-finished-bar-a-bit-of-spit-and-polish film, Hallam Foe, with a plea that we not really review it on our blogs, but help him figure out what how to describe it, what its identity is.
Hugh MacLeod, one of David's old friends, organised a screening last week for a bunch of bloggers and people involved in the film at a snug little cinema De Lane Lea in Soho. The film's not finished yet, the opening credits are hand-drawn rough animations, and apparently there were a few other things not quite right yet. (Not that I could tell, really.) But Buena Vista had agreed that despite its unfinished status, David could show it to us.
And I'm really glad he did. Hallam Foe (sorry, this is a bit of a review coming up), is a beautifully shot, wonderfully written film. The score is a delight, the cinematography lovely, and there are some fantastic performances. Jamie Bell as the eponymous Hallam is no longer a ballet dancing young boy, but plays a gangly, rangy teenager who, underneath his troubled exterior is cheeky and confident. And Sophia Myles is suitably sexy as a – I believe 'minx' is the right word – as Kate Breck.
But I can understand David's concern that it's a very hard film to characterise. If one were to be lazy, one would say something trite, like “It's a cross between Stand By Me and Trainspotting”, but that would be selling the film short in so many ways. Hallam Foe is a coming of age film, yes, but not like Stand By Me or The Breakfast Club – it's not about rites of passage it's about growing up and gaining maturity. And the only similarity it has to Trainspotting is that it's full of Scottish people and filmed in Edinburgh.
Hallam Foe is indeed a difficult film to describe. 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. Certainly the logline on IMDB does it no justice, focusing as it does on voyeurism instead of the nuances of Hallam's behaviour and the struggles he faces: dealing with feelings of anger, disengagement from reality, suspicion, confusion.
Sadly, I'm still rubbish at writing loglines and pitches, so I'm not even going to try here. But I am good at spotting a good film, with characters who develop, which has a sterling ending. Hallam Foe has all of those, and I look forward to endlessly going on about it as we approach the release date of 9 February 2007, much as I did for Shaun of the Dead when it came out on DVD here and was released in the States.
Indeed, Hallam Foe has a blog, written by Colin Kennedy who has been working on the film. I have to disclose here that in May 2005, David and I were talking about me blogging his upcoming film (at that time I had no idea what it was even going to be about). I was very excited about the opportunity to blog a film, but David had a son and I got busy and it never came together. Seeing how fantastically Colin is blogging, though, confirms what I know (but which I was then conveniently ignoring then, because of my enthusiasm), that it's far better for someone on the inside of a project to blog rather than to parachute some 'blogging expert' in. The character Hallam also has a MySpace page, as does Kate and Verity Foe (Hallam's stepmother).
It's going to be interesting to watch how the Hallam Foe team promote the film using blogs. I think there's likely to be a lot of things they could do, although I'm not going to go on about them right now. But building up some momentum and keeping it going until February is going to be a fun challenge for them. I wish I were involved.

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