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Originally published Friday, September 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Mister Foe": Dramatic possibilities crash and fall apart

"Mister Foe": In this mixed effort, a troubled kid (Jamie Bell) takes to spying on an Edinburgh woman (Sophia Myles) who looks like his late mother. 95 minutes. Reviewed Sept. 19 by Tom Keogh.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

"Mister Foe," with Jamie Bell, Sophia Myles, Ciarán Hinds, Claire Forlani. Directed by David Mackenzie, from a screenplay by Mackenzie and Ed Whitmore, based on a novel by Peter Jinks. 95 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (includes nudity, sex scenes, swearing). Metro.

Covered with animal skins and war paint, peering through rooftop windows at a mother surrogate, the deeply distressed Hallam Foe suggests the ultimate Lost Boy himself, Peter Pan.

Clambering around dangerous heights while haunted by a cool blonde, Hallam also comes across like a junior version of Jimmy Stewart's desperate Scottie Ferguson in Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo."

"Mister Foe," David Mackenzie's adaptation of novelist Peter Jinks' "Hallam Foe," is brazenly honest about its popular influences. (At one point, the blonde — played by Sophia Myles — even uses the word "vertigo.") But while the film playfully telegraphs its inspirations, "Mister Foe" never persuasively comes together as a dark fable about an adolescent misfit stuck in loss.

Hallam (Jamie Bell) spends the first part of the story in a treehouse shrine to his mother (portrayed in photographs by a brunette Myles), who drowned in a loch on the family's Scottish estate. Pressured to leave home by his caring but exasperated father (Ciarán Hinds) and the latter's gold-digging fiancée (Claire Forlani), Hallam — certain one or both of them were involved in his mother's death — heads to Edinburgh.

There, in Scotland's capital, Hallam takes to spying on Kate (Myles), who looks like his mother, through her skylight as she practices kick-boxing and has vigorous sex with a married man. Unsurprisingly, this leads Hallam to a major Oedipal hang-up, which eventually has some kinky appeal to Kate.

Mackenzie ("Young Adam") exudes a certain confidence pushing the limits of Hallam's emotional and behavioral contradictions. But Hallam's combined adventures as a stalker, a would-be costumed avenger of his mother and an equally would-be lover of an older, sexually sophisticated woman begin to compete for plausibility.

By the time everything is reaching critical mass, one begins to feel Hallam has deconstructed into a cartoon version of himself — a most annoying development.

Tom Keogh:

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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