Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Atom Egoyan's "Felicia's Journey" tells the story of two children escaping from their parents. One of the children is middle aged now, an executive chef for a factory lunchroom. The other is an Irish girl, in England to seek the boy who said he would write her every day and then never wrote at all. It is their misfortune that the paths of these two children cross.
The man is named Hilditch. He is played by Bob Hoskins, that sturdy, redoubtable fireplug. At work his staff is in thrall to his verdict. He sips a soup and disapproves: "It starts with the stock!" He lives alone in a huge house where nothing seems to have changed since the 1950s. He spends his evenings cooking ambitious dinners like a saddle of lamb and eating them all by himself, listening to Mantovani on a record player. His drives a Morris Mini-Minor, a bulbous little car designed along the same lines as its driver.
The girl is named Felicia (Elaine Cassidy). She is sweet and bewildered. She gave her love to Johnny (Peter McDonald), who left for England--to work in a lawn mower factory, he said. She is pregnant. Johnny has not written. Her father (Gerard McSorley) is a rabid Irish nationalist who is convinced Johnny has gone to join the British army. He is offended by his daughter's pregnancy not on moral but political grounds: "You are carrying the enemy within you!" Felicia takes the ferry to England and goes looking for Johnny's lawn mower factory. Kindly Mr. Hilditch sees her wandering the streets and offers her guidance, and even a ride to a nearby town where Johnny might be working. Hilditch explains that his wife is a patient in the hospital there. We slowly gather that Mr. Hilditch is not a nice man, that he has no wife, that Felicia is in some kind of danger. The look of the film, wet, green, brown, cool, dark, underlines the danger.
The key to "Felicia's Journey" is that it has understanding for both characters--for Felicia, who is innocent, and for Hilditch, who is the product of a childhood which turned him out very wrong. Atom Egoyan is drawn to stories like this, stories about the lasting injuries of childhood, and in one way or another both his "The Sweet Hereafter" and "Exotica" are about damaged girls and predatory men. "Felicia's Journey" is based on a novel by William Trevor, and when he read it, Egoyan must have felt an instant empathy with the material.