Atom Egoyan may be the only filmmaker in the world who would go to the trouble of inventing fictional technology for a movie that couldn’t even remotely be considered science fiction. In truth, we’re probably no more than a few years away from a video chatroom that’ll host conversations among a dozen individuals in a dozen different locations, with all participants visible onscreen simultaneously via their webcams, but Egoyan couldn’t wait. In Adoration, set more or less in the present, a half-Lebanese high-school student named Simon (Bostick) spends a lot of time in one such chatroom, arguing with classmates and random adults about his father (Noam Jenkins)—a notorious terrorist who, back in the early ’90s, attempted to use his pregnant-with-Simon wife (Rachel Blanchard) as an unwitting suicide bomber. Or so Simon claims in a school assignment, at any rate. Only his teacher, Sabine (Khanjian), knows that Simon has simply plugged his deceased parents into a moldy news story ... but Sabine appears to have her own mysterious reasons for encouraging this flame-fanning deception.
Following the success—by art-house standards, anyway—of his masterworks Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Egoyan spent more than a decade valiantly attempting to expand his range, adapting everyone from Samuel Beckett (Krapp’s Last Tape) to Rupert Holmes (Where the Truth Lies). The results were less than satisfying, and with Adoration, for better or worse, the director has finally given up and retreated to his signature style: chilly, stilted, intricately fragmented, solemnly ludicrous. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone unfamiliar with his work start here; for longtime fans, however, this admittedly scattershot effort will feel like a homecoming, which may make it easier to forgive the way that Egoyan’s potentially rich ideas about terrorism and technology ultimately wind up in the service of his usual bizarro-world take on grief management. He’s bitten off more than he can chew this time—I’m not sure just why Sabine begins showing up at Simon’s house disguised in a burqa and interrogating his uncle (Speedman, surprisingly effective) about his Christian faith—but this doggedly cerebral approach to emotional crises still produces a special and weirdly compelling kind of cognitive dissonance.