Felicia's Journey

Nov 17, 1999 at 12:00 am

He’s an ordinary man with a soothing voice, small hands and an extraordinary capacity for compassion. He’s a middle-aged loner of tidy habits who lives in a world of carefully guarded delusions. His name is Mr. Hilditch and he is a serial killer.

Hilditch (Bob Hoskins in an uncanny, superbly crafted performance) belongs to that disturbing "killers like us" category, a curious "mixture of Jack the Ripper and Winnie the Pooh." Every evening, watching tapes of a 1950s cooking show hosted by his mother, he prepares fantastic dinners which he consumes alone, in full formal attire, using his best china and silver. The house is lifeless, a shrine to his dead mother, full of humiliating memories from the time when Hilditch was a fat little boy on the set of a cooking show.

Is it the lack of affection that turns the child into an adult monster? Perhaps. A bad little boy lives inside the mild-mannered Hilditch. It’s Hilditch who goes to work every day in his green Morris Minor, listening to old, moth-eaten songs. But it’s the bad little boy who picks up lost girls and puts them out of their misery with a cup of poisoned cocoa. Hilditch (so far, director Atom Egoyan’s most complex creation) kills out of tenderness, and the camera indulges his every move, unable to look away.

But this pattern is disrupted by Felicia, a 17-year-old Irish girl, scared and pregnant. She’s not like the other girls. There’s love and pride and trust in her eyes, and Hilditch is not equipped to deal with feelings of such intensity.

Hilditch tapes his conversations with the girls. He loves film as a medium and the film loves him back, in one of those twisted yet endearing symbiotic relationships that makes us a little more lonely, a little more human every time we feel its presence.

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