Canadian director Atom Egoyan loves his characters. In his best films, The Sweet Hereafter (1997) and Exotica (1994), Egoyan's rich vein of empathy for every one of his subjects is what makes his work so affecting—and his latest, the haunting Adoration, is no different.
Inspired by Sabine (Arsinée Khanjian), his high school French teacher, the orphaned Simon (Devon Bostick) incorporates parts of his family history into a class assignment—a translation of a real-life newspaper article about a foiled terrorist act, in which a Middle Eastern man put a bomb into his pregnant wife's airline luggage without her knowledge. Simon pretends to be that woman's child—and when his classmates believe him, the story makes it to the internet, where it becomes a controversial jumping-off point for discussions about God, religion, and morality. This is where Adoration momentarily stumbles, as teenagers sit in chat rooms, like, discussing God and stuff—but if you can ignore the cringe-worthy teen diatribes about the meaning of life while XTC's "Dear God" plays in the background, you'll find the heart of Egoyan's film: the amazing character interactions.
Beautifully crafted, Adoration follows the mystery of Simon's parents' untimely deaths, which affect each of the other characters' lives. The emotionally damaged Sabine tries to find solace with Simon's uncle (a very good Scott Speedman), who gave up his 20s to care for the boy. Simon gets lost in the bigotry of his dying grandfather as he tries to reconcile the love of his father with a nagging feeling that his father might've been responsible for his mother's death. We even see Simon's mother, a talented violinist, when she meets his father for the first time at his violin repair shop—where they both lovingly inspect her violin and talk about its future, one they'll soon share. With each scene, Egoyan's warmness and compassion masterfully convey the complexity of familial secrets, personal and technological communication, and portraitures of personal hurt.