Guest of Honour (2020)
Directed by Atom Egolan
Whether he’s appearing in a mega-blockbuster like “Harry Potter” or a prestige television series like “Fargo,” David Thewlis can always be counted on to give it his all and steal the show. He’s the only reason director Atom Egolan’s (“Remember”) latest oddball drama, “Guest of Honour,” is worth giving your precious time to. But even then, it may not be your cup of tea.
On the occasion of Jim’s (David Thewlis) funeral, his daughter Veronica (Laysla de Oliveira) speaks to the priest (Luke Wilson) who will deliver the eulogy. As the movie flashes back to show the most important moments from Jim and Veronica’s lives—the death of their loving wife and mother, their pride in their careers (Jim, a health inspector; Veronica, a music teacher)—we’re let in on the presence of a big secret. That’s what drives the plot most of the rest of the way—waiting to see what might have led to Veronica serving time in jail and her father pondering revenge in her name.
The story is a bit absurd, and after two or three layers of its head-turning twists, you start to be less affected by them. Seemingly innocuous coincidences turn out to have major connections to other parts of the plot in ways that are way too convenient for real life. But the characters and events are so strange, you can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen next. David Thewlis rises above the noise. Doesn’t he always? He’s such a scene-stealer whenever he’s on-screen. There’s no way “Guest of Honour” pulls in any major award nominations, like a Best Actor nomination for Thewlis, but in this funky off-year at the box office who knows? Unlike Thewlis, Laysla de Oliveira’s talent came as a surprise. It was my first time seeing her, but I was very happy with her performance. Her character is the most interesting, the most likable, and perhaps the most troubled.
“Guest of Honour” knows that in a crowded world of cinema, you have to stand out. It does so by crafting an odd narrative that is difficult to look away from. But once it hooked audiences, it failed to reel them in.