Next of Kin | Chicago Reader

Next of Kin

The 1985 first feature of Canadian writer-director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) is probably his least-known work. But thanks to its dynamic camera style and bizarre premise, it's in some 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 before. Flying to the city where this family lives, the hero poses as the missing son and becomes much better integrated into their family than his own. As in most of 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.

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