Guest of Honour
To summarise Guest of Honour, the latest project from writer-director Atom Egoyan, is a difficult task; not because of any ambiguity or complexity that’s exhibited, but rather because there are so many moving parts which the script desperately tries to connect in meaningful ways.
In short: the film sees disgraced music teacher and composer Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira) discuss her recently diseased father (David Thewlis) with a priest (Luke Wilson). Then there’s the mystery that surrounds why Veronica chose to go to jail for a crime she didn’t commit to punish herself for her past, and her father’s antics as a food hygiene inspector. Concerned more with adding lazy twists to make the screenplay seem more interesting than it is, this melodramatic flick lacks the focus or writing required to craft a cohesive plot or land any of its emotional beats.
A non-linear narrative from Veronica’s perspective, the film’s potential to establish a compelling mystery whose fragments would gradually piece together the bigger picture is there. Unfortunately, though, the script is unable to stick to its own premise and spends a large chunk of its time with the father. While this character is by far the best part of the film, with Thewlis’s dry wit bringing plenty of charm and likeability, this shift in storytelling nevertheless undermines the film’s structure. Egoyan constantly requires viewers to go along with massive leaps in logic. Too many of the plot’s revelations rely on conveniences and character choices that make no sense and aren’t sufficiently explained (if at all), even if they go against who these characters are. It’s clear these twists were meant to create a shocking drama, but without any logical reasoning behind them the results are more akin to a spoof than the seriousness the filmmaker was aiming for.
What’s even more insulting to viewers is that everything – even the mystery surrounding Veronica’s imprisonment – is largely irrelevant and has no conclusion. The story here is of a man coping with his daughter’s trauma, not a woman telling her own story. Had the film focused on this instead, then we could have had a more coherent and effective narrative with Thewlis at its heart.
While Egoyan displays competent understanding of directing, his vapid and lazy script make Guest of Honour a dishonourable viewing experience.
Guest of Honour is released digitally on demand on 5th June 2020.
Watch the trailer for Guest of Honour here: