The 400-Word Review: Guest of Honour
By Sean Collier
July 18, 2020
I think the central question of “Guest of Honour” is: Can someone’s personal narrative be corrected by compromising it? Can you go against your own moral code in the pursuit of putting things right?
I’m not positive that’s the intended subject; maybe that’s simply what stuck out to me in Atom Egoyan’s dense (and occasionally unwieldy) story. Egoyan, the idiosyncratic filmmaker of “Ararat,” “Chloe” and plenty more, serves as director, writer and producer; it’s his vision, through and through.
Most of the story is conveyed in out-of-order flashbacks, as Veronica (Laysla de Oliveira) discusses her late father, Jim (David Thewlis), with the priest who is to deliver his eulogy (Luke Wilson). These conversations are at once an interrogation of Jim and a confession for Veronica. To give a bit of the tale, without treading far into the plot: Veronica willingly spent years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit.
As a young music teacher, she was accused of sexual misconduct with students; it’s an open secret, however, that the accusations were untrue. She was set up by Mike (Rossif Sutherland), the bus driver who shepherded the students to performances; Mike was angry that Veronica rejected his advances and framed her.
She’s in jail, though, because she believes she deserves to be there for an unrelated misdeed. There’s that question: Can she atone for an offense from years ago, for which justice was never delivered, by accepting an unrelated punishment?
Most of the movie is spent with Jim, however, as he investigates the facts of his daughter’s life and crimes. He’s an intriguingly crafted figure; a fastidious health inspector by day, his warmth hides around corners. He too will violate his code of ethics in pursuit of understanding; “Guest of Honour” is concerned with the way these transgressions compound.
This is a detailed way of stressing that “Guest of Honour” is a thinker. This is less an entertainment and more an exploration, decidedly aimed at the arthouse set (though, current conditions being what they are, it plays just fine at home). It is the kind of movie designed to provoke thoughtful murmurs of consideration from intently focused audiences.
Many such movies are great. This one is just pretty good; in serving as both director and writer, Egoyan is a bit too unrestrained, and “Guest of Honour” can tend to ramble. Due to a game cast, though, it’s a worthwhile yarn.
My Rating: 7/10
“Guest of Honour” is available via digital on-demand services.