Deep character study asks big questions
As thoughtful, calculated, somber and cold as a heavily footnoted term paper, “Adoration” is the first film by Canadian writer-director Atom Egoyan to get a Memphis theatrical booking since the heartbreaking “The Sweet Hereafter” in 1998.
Like that earlier movie, “Adoration” could be described as an investigation of a tragedy, but in this case the disaster that inspires the drama is a mix of reality and fantasy, as a high school student (Devon Bostick) is encouraged by his Lebanese theater teacher (Egoyan’s wife, the striking Arsinee Khanjian) to concoct a fact-based terrorism fable that circles back to bite its makers when it goes viral via the Internet.
In his clumsy, incipient way, the student is a born storyteller, which is to say an artist. “Why would you make people feel all those things if it wasn’t even true?” an angry adult asks the boy, and it’s a question that Egoyan seems to be directing at himself. Why does an artist create fantasy situations and characters to inspire feelings of sorrow, terror and joy? Is a fictional tale less worthy of our full emotional investment than a real-life report of horror? If it’s not, is art redemptive or dangerous?
The movie suggests many other Big Questions about religion, memory, family, purpose. A mysterious woman in a burka haunts the film, and the script contains references to Bethlehem and 9/11. “If every life was precious, the world would not be able to sustain itself,” asserts one character.
The performances of the actors are impeccable, but their faces provide this rather dull and unconvincing story with its only visual interest. The movie feels like an adaptation of an intriguing but pretentious novel that should have been left on the page.
“Adoration” is playing exclusively at Malco’s Ridgeway Four.
Arsinee Khanjian is a drama teacher who encourages student Devon Bostwick to concoct a tale of terrorism in Atom Egoyan’s “Adoration.”