By Willie Krischke — October 30, 2009
The springboard for “Adoration” is an actual event: in 1986, Jordanian terrorist Nezar Hindawi slipped a bomb into his pregnant girlfriend’s bag and took her to the airport, where she would board a plane for Israel, ostensibly to meet his parents. He told her he was coming on a later flight. It’s hard for me to imagine a more horrible crime than sending your girlfriend and child off to die, taking 300+ lives with them, while you sit and watch it all on TV. Thankfully, the bomb was discovered at the airport, and Hindawi went to prison, where he remains.
But that’s not what “Adoration” is about it’s just the springboard for Atom Egoyan’s latest movie. A French teacher (Arsinee Khanjian) reads an article about the event to her class, asking them to translate it. Devon Bostick, instead of translating, turns it into his own story: he was that unborn child, and he is alive because the bomb was discovered. The French teacher, who is of Middle Eastern descent, is intrigued by his creativity, and encourages him to pass off the story to the class as if it were true. He can do this, because his parents are dead. Why she encourages him to do this, and why he agrees, are just two of the intriguing puzzles we encounter in “Adoration.”
A lot of things feel clunky here. Egoyan has cast his wife in a major role, and I’m pretty sure he could’ve found better talent. More than in any movie I’ve seen in a while, there are moments in “Adoration” when it’s clear that the actors are moving, or speaking, or looking, a certain way because the director told them to, without any clear understanding of their characters. And one could argue that the plot ties up its loose ends a little too tidily–we get into “Crash” territory here, where a few people are conveniently linked to each other in barely believable ways. And yet, I find myself overlooking almost all of “Adoration’s” problems, because it’s just so darn interesting to watch. There is a compelling story here, in spite of its missteps.
Bostick’s grandfather, on his death bed, insists that the boy’s father (who was of Middle Eastern descent) drove the car head-on into a semi truck on purpose. “He was a killer,” he whispers, hardly what an orphan boy wants to hear about his father. Bostick’s uncle (Scott Speedman,) who takes care of him, can’t contradict this story, but offers a view of his own father that makes us wonder if we should trust the old man’s perspective.
And there seem to be parallels between the attempted bombing and the French teacher strapping this story onto a young kid and sending him into the world with it. It hits the internet, and people who were on the plane that didn’t blow up are enraged and confused.cShe gets fired, (of course,) and ends up having lunch with Speedman, where secrets are revealed that might’ve been better if they’d stayed secrets. Bostick finds himself at the center of a conversational firestorm, with people weighing in passionately on all sides–your father was a hero, your father was a monster. It’s a lot for a high schooler to take in.
Watch how “Adoration” uses digital technology: not behind the camera, but in front of it. Bostick has numerous video chat sessions, with his schoolmates, the survivors, and others about the incident. He videos his grandfather’s testimony on his cell phone. In fact, very few of his conversations take place without some kind of digital mediation. Egoyan loves to pose questions about communication and relationship in a digital age; they’re in the background of “Adoration,” but they’re still there.
And I found the way the movie ends very intriguing, though I don’t want to say too much about it. Suffice it to say that I think audiences will find it satisfying, but need to question just why they find it satisfying. At least in part, it’s a movie about understanding that people perceived as monsters probably aren’t, and our eagerness to judge them and ascribe nefarious motivations to their actions says more about us than about them. But if you create one monster in the process of humanizing another, have you really made any progress?
- if you’re in the mood for intriguing indie cinema with a topical subject and a layered plot
- if you’re already a fan of Atom Egoyan
- if you want to start a discussion about the motivations of terrorists, race and prejudice, etc.
- if you’re looking for a popcorn movie
- if stiff and awkward performances really ruins a movie for you.
- if you were on that flight in 1986.