VENICE, Italy (Reuters) – “Harry Potter” actor David Thewlis plays a father desperate to understand his adult daughter’s choices in “Guest of Honour”, an exploration of a family relationship with hidden secrets.
The movie, directed by Atom Egoyan, begins with Veronica, a former high school music teacher recently released from jail, meeting a priest to discuss her father’s funeral.
Over the course of the meeting, the priest (Luke Wilson), asks Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira) to describe her father Jim and she looks back on his life.
A widowed restaurant inspector with particular attention to detail, Thewlis’s Jim is frustrated by Veronica’s decision to go to jail after a failed hoax sees her falsely convicted of abusing her position towards a student.
The young teacher, however, feels the need to be punished for an earlier crime from her past. Her determination to stay in jail soon begins to impact Jim’s work.
The drama, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Tuesday, sees both father and daughter conduct their own investigations about each other at different times.
“There is the investigation that his daughter is conducting in the present day but there are several investigations that are happening at different points that he’s conducting while he was alive, that she’s conducting as she remembered it and that he’s positioning it as it actually happened,” Egoyan said.
“It sounds complicated … even though there is five different periods I think it’s very clear at all times where you are in the film,” he added, speaking at a news conference.
“Guest of Honor”, which Egoyan also wrote, addresses suspicion and guilt as both father and daughter try to understand each other better.
“She’s very influenced by the experiences she’s had growing up,” De Oliveira said of her character, Veronica.
“There’s loss there, and so she carries that guilt … or that darkness with her for most of her life and so which leads her to do something that she ultimately feels is right for herself.”
The movie is one of 21 competing for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which runs until Sept. 7.
Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; additional reporting by Sarah Mills, editing by Ed Osmond