Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999

"Felicia's Journey"

by Richard Schwartz

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Atom Egoyan's "Felicia's Journey" is at the same time haunting and ravishing. Characterized by both well-crafted performances and gorgeous scenics, this adaptation of a William Trevor novel lacks the depth of Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter" but still succeeds in evoking quite a chilling mood.

The story follows the delicate seventeen-year-old Felicia (newcomer Elaine Cassidy) as she crosses the Irish Sea to England in hopes of finding her lover and telling him that she is pregnant. Instead, Felicia encounters the eccentric old man Hilditch (Bob Hoskins), a loner who befriends naïve homeless girls and, as we later discover, victimizes them.

"Felicia's Journey" is a study in stark contrasts: among them, the blindly trusting Felicia and the devious-minded Hilditch; the tranquil Irish countryside of Felicia's youth as shown in flashbacks juxtaposed with grey, industrialized Birmingham; the old-fashioned lifestyle (Felicia lives as if out of a Jane Austen novel, passing hand-written letters to her beau via his mother) versus the ultra-modern (Hilditch places miniature video cameras inside his car to record the girls). Most of all, however, the film works for two reasons: its creepiness results from nuanced subtlety rather than bold gratuitousness, and the two lead performances are extremely convincing. As Hilditch, Hoskins attains the perfect pitch between the gentle and the creepy, and Cassidy plays Felicia with an unblinking naivete that is at all times believable.

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