Wednesday 28 February 2024

Felicia's Journey - 1999 film review

I first came across the name of William Trevor as a teenager, when a rave review of his novel The Children of Dynmouth prompted me to borrow the book from the local library. I was greatly impressed, and the final paragraphs have stayed with me ever since, which I can't say about many books. I then discovered Trevor's admirable short stories. I've not read him for a while, but he remains my favourite Irish writer.

When I discovered that Felicia's Journey, directed by the estimable Atom Egoyan, was based on a novel by Trevor, I decided to watch it, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a slow-burn, subtle film, but I found it thoughtful, mysterious (although not in a detective puzzle way) and gripping.

We're introduced to a man called Hilditch, who is in charge of the works canteen at a factory in Birmingham. He's fussy but pleasant and well-respected by the people who work for him - always a good sign. But there are one or two things about him that strike a slightly odd note, especially when he goes home in his Morris Mini Minor and cooks elaborate meals for himself while watching an old cooking programme on television. Meanwhile, Felicia, a naive but lovely teenager, travels from Ireland to England in search of Johnny, a boy she's fallen in love with. She bumps into Hilditch a couple of times, and he takes pity on her, offering to help her find Johnny. But all is not as it seems...

The cast is excellent, and is led by Bob Hoskins, who had an unrivalled ability to combine menace with genuine pathos. The role of Hilditch is challenging, to say the least, but he handles it with aplomb. Elaine Cassidy is excellent as Felicia, and there's a smallish role for Brid Brennan, who plays Johnny's mother. I watched Brid Brennan recently in a newish film, the Irish language suspense movie Doineann, where she carries a slight story with a great performance in the role of a veteran detective. Doineann is a decent enough film, but it isn't (perhaps because the script lacks Trevor's quality) in the same league as Felicia's Journey, which explore the relationships between parents and children, and between innocence and guilt, with a sophistication that is never dull, never irritating. 

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