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VOD Review: Guest of Honour

July 10, 2020

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

The latest from Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, Guest of Honour unfortunately follows in the footsteps of several of his other disappointing late career works; it’s a dramatic thriller that takes topical themes and buries them in an overly complicated and melodramatic package.

The film tells the story of a restaurant health inspector named Jim (David Thewlis), and his daughter Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira), the former conductor of a high school band. The film actually takes place after Jim’s death, and is built around a conversation that Veronica is having with a priest (Luke Wilson), making arrangements for her father’s funeral.

This is the film’s main narrative through-line, and through it we also discover that Veronica has just gotten out of jail for alleged misconduct involving two of her male students. This part of the story is revealed through flashbacks, as Jim visits his daughter in jail and pieces together the truth of what actually happened with Veronica, who is innocent but chooses to remain in prison anyway.

I don’t really want to say anymore about the plot, which plays out through a fractured narrative that unfolds across several timelines, and does provide some initial intrigue. But as more connections are revealed between the different characters and plot lines, Egoyan’s screenplay becomes convoluted to the point of getting increasingly nonsensical. This is one of those “everything is connected” films that relies upon a lot of contrivances, and it’s hard to buy how it all ties together.

The one saving grace of Guest of Honour is British actor Thewlis, who is often quite good in the film despite the pulpy material, which really speaks to his strengths as a performer. Thewlis ensures that the film is kept watchable, and Egoyan does stage some compelling scenes when it’s just his character going into restaurants and finding health infractions. But the soapy melodrama of everything around these sequences proves rather frustrating.

Guest of Honour is being released today on a variety of digital and VOD platforms. It’s distributed in Canada by Elevation Pictures.

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