Next of Kin

The first feature (1985) of Canadian writer-director Atom Egoyan (Family Viewing, Speaking Parts) is probably his least-known work. But thanks to its dynamic camera style and its bizarre premise, it is in many ways his most immediately engaging. In the course of undergoing family therapy with his parents, a young Canadian WASP (Patrick Tierney) comes across a video of an Armenian family (Berge Fazlian, Sirvart Fazlian, and Egoyan regular Arsinee Khanjian) who put their son up for adoption 20 years ago. Flying to the city where this family lives, the hero poses as the missing son and becomes much better integrated in their family than he is in his own. As in Egoyan’s subsequent films, video not only has an important function in the plot but is also employed metaphorically. Egoyan’s use of realistic details often proves deceptive; just as we’ve settled into accepting his plot on a literal level, he starts unhinging our expectations with ambiguities and details that don’t fit comfortably within a realistic scenario. (One particular ambiguity that is never resolved is the young man’s relationship with his “sister.”) The result is a very impressive debut, beautifully acted by all the leads and engaging and provocative in its treatment of the differences (as well as the similarities) between role-playing and pretending. (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Friday and Saturday, February 22 and 23, 8:00, 281-8788)

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