This film was previously reviewed in September 2019 as part of our Venice Film Festival coverage.

It’s a worrying sign when the quirky adventures of David Thewlis, Health Inspector, are more entertaining than your central thriller plot of sex, blackmail and murder. Guest of Honour throws together two very different stories and fails to really sell either with its confusing plot and weak performances.

Atom Egoyan’s script has an ambitious structure, telling the story of Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira) as she quite possibly becomes entangled in a love affair with her student, and Jim (David Thewlis) her father, as he investigates unsanitary restaurants and then investigates Veronica’s imprisonment. There is very little to link these two halves aside from the family relationship, and too many threads are left hanging, confusing the viewer rather than intriguing them.

Veronica’s half of the story is an abomination, full of awful, tone-deaf performances and ridiculous character motivations. Jim’s half feels like it was written by a different person, with a more thoughtful approach and a much lighter touch. Or maybe the difference is simply David Thewlis. He saves the film with his quizzical, sensitive performance, turning flimsy scenes of restaurant inspections into mundane moments that at least imply the loneliness he is navigating after his wife’s death and his daughter’s imprisonment (unrelated).

It feels strange to demand more shots of Thewlis petting an overweight rabbit, or blackmailing the owner of a traditional Bavarian restaurant, but at least these scenes have a bit of life. Everything else in Egoyan’s script is clichéd, nonsensical, or both of the above.

Egoyan’s one saving grace is that he at least knows how to keep his direction interesting, moving the action along smartly enough that it never becomes too boring. Despite this, Guest of Honour is a bizarre, lazy thriller worth watching only by die-hard Thewlis fans.


Available to watch on: Curzon Home Cinema


CAST: David Thewlis, Luke Wilson, Sima Fisher, Rossif Sutherland, Laysla De Oliveira

DIRECTOR: Atom Egoyan

WRITER: Atom Egoyan

SYNOPSIS: Veronica (De Oliveira) wants to remain in jail for a sexual assault she knows she’s been wrongfully indicted for. She and her father, Jim (Thewlis), find themselves acting out of the bounds of good behavior as the past haunts them.