NEW YORK — The United States premiere of Canadian-Armenian auteur Atom Egoyan’s latest film, “Guest of Honour,” was screened at the IFC Center in the West Village and featured a live in-person, question-and-answer session with the award-winning filmmaker alongside his wife, actress Arsinée Khanjian, during the Canada Now festival that took place from Thursday, February 13 through Sunday, February 16.
The psychological family thriller starring David Thewlis, Laysla De Oliveira and Luke Wilson, kicked off the Canada Now series, a four-day traveling film festival geared towards highlighting the foremost cinema from the country. The film, which marked its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last September, revolves around a father-daughter relationship over a 15-year period that explores trauma, memory and forgiveness.
When Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira) is asked by Father Greg (Luke Wilson) about her father, Jim (David Thewlis) so he can write a proper eulogy for his funeral, the film flashes back to their troubled relationship that was one of secrecy and deception. A restaurant health food inspector by profession, Jim tries to make amends with his daughter, a high school music teacher, who is in prison for inappropriate behavior with her students.
According to Egoyan, the origin of the story traced back to his son’s experience at an esteemed French restaurant in Toronto a decade ago, where the chef was tormented by a food inspector. That anecdote, along with a New York Times article about the downward spiral of a chef after the closing of a well-known brasserie due to negative reports, formed the core of the film’s plot.
Egoyan spoke about the occupations that characters hold in his films, from a customs agent (“Ararat”) to a bus driver (“The Sweet Hereafter”) to an insurance adjuster (“The Adjuster”) and how their trades affect their personas.
“These characters choose these jobs because they have access to issues they otherwise don’t in real life,” said Egoyan. “Jim hasn’t been able to resolve his problems in his personal life but in his job as a restaurant health inspector there is purpose and consequence.”