Director:Atom Egoyan

Cast: David Thewlis, Laysla De Oliveira, Luke Wilson, Alexandre Bourgeois, Rossif Sutherland, Arsinée Khanjian, Sochi Fried

Runtime: 105 minutes

Synopsis: Veronica wants to remain in jail for a sexual assault she knows she’s been wrongfully indicted for. She and her father, Jim, find themselves acting out of the bounds of acceptable behaviour as the past haunts them.

The latest film from internationally-acclaimed veteran filmmaker Atom Egoyan [The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Ararat (2002), Chloe (2009), The Captive (2014), Devil’s Knot (2013)] is a complex, absorbing family drama about a father-daughter relationship, where both are  wrestling with past traumas that inform present circumstances.

Jim Davis (an outstanding performance by David Thewlis) is a health inspector in Hamilton, Ontario, making sure that restaurants are up to health code standards. His daughter Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira), a high school music teacher, has been recently incarcerated for inappropriate behaviour with students. Jim is convinced that she is innocent, but his efforts to reduce her sentence are blocked by Veronica’s mysterious refusal to cooperate. While trying to understand his daughter’s attitude, Jim channels his energy and frustration into his work, with some unsettling results and, as always with Egoyan, some startling revelations.

A hoax instigated by an aggressive school bus driver (Rossif Sutherland) goes very wrong. Accused of abusing her position of authority with 17-year-old Clive (Alexandre Bourgeois) and another student, Veronica is imprisoned. Convinced that she deserves to be punished for crimes she committed at an earlier age, Veronica rebuffs her father’s attempts to secure her early release. Confused and frustrated by her intransigence, Jim’s anguish begins to impinge on his job. As a food inspector, he wields great power over small, family-owned restaurants – a power he doesn’t hesitate to use. Veronica confides the secrets of her past to Father Greg (Luke Wilson), who may hold the final piece of this father-daughter puzzle.

Guest of Honour is a family melodrama also written by Egoyan, which raises many questions with its non-linear script piecing together multiple timelines and a selection of increasingly convoluted plot elements. However it maintains coherence and pace despite the frequent transitory twists and turns the story takes. It remains grounded mainly thanks to Thewlis’s nuanced performance as a man whose life has been shaped by tragedy. Jim Davis is not a likeable presence – so meticulous about hygiene rules, but willing to break them to suit his own agenda.

A film about reputation, family guilt and obsession, Guest of Honour benefits from a set of strong ensemble performances and an intriguing, unconventional structure. However, although it is one of Atom Egoyan’s stronger recent efforts, it cannot equal his past glories.

Streaming on Curzon Home Video

Images courtesy of: Curzon Artificial Eye