Hallam Foe (Jamie Bell) has never been the same since his mother died. She committed suicide, or that's what the official inquest said, but he cannot believe she would voluntarily leave him behind and has cooked up another theory to explain her death: she was murdered by Verity (Claire Forlani), the woman who became Hallam's stepmother. Although he lives with his rich father (Ciarán Hinds) on his family estate, he prefers to spend time in his treehouse, occasionally spying on those who pass by and even surprising them every so often. But he is about to be forced out of this already unsteady life...
The opening titles to Hallam Foe were designed by David Shrigley, which should give you some idea of the combination of the quirky and the arty to follow, although more of Shrigley's humour would have made this peeping tom tale more palatable. As it is, it's an unfriendly world that the hero lives in, unleavened by much in the way of comfort now his mother has gone; his father is distant and unresponsive and his stepmother is icy cold. To top it all, his sister is leaving the family home and his treehouse is vandalised, so he's not in the most reliable of moods.
As can be witnessed when Verity confronts him in said treehouse and their argument ends in sex which they both immediately regret, with her practically ordering him to get out of the way so she and his father can live in peace. This Hallam does, ending up in Edinburgh but without a job or anywhere to stay. However, he is very good at climbing and to avoid police and men on the prowl for rent boys, the roofs become his home. To complicate matters, he spots hotel office worker Kate (Sophia Myles doing a fine Scottish accent) who happens to be the spitting image of his dead mother.
This means his penchant for voyeurism goes into overdrive: he gets a job in the kitchens at the hotel to keep an eye on her, and lives in the clock tower where, not having a television, he amuses himself by spying on Kate whose flat he can see from his roost. We are supposed to find this endearing, but Bell is not James Stewart in Rear Window, and anyone who has ever suffered the unwanted interest of an obsessive might not be too forgiving of Hallam's antics. He is offered a promotion by Kate, who has taken a liking to him yet remains oblivious to his surveillance, so he goes out for drinks with her and eventually the night ends at her place.
Now, because Kate resembles his mother he is reluctant to go to bed with her, or rather, he wants to sleep beside her but not sleep with her. Millions of oddball men across the globe must rejoice at Sophia Myles (in character) saying she likes creepy guys, but you simply do not buy it, especially when her initial outrage on discovering Hallam's unhealthy interest and reasons for it, which comes after they do indeed have sex, gives way to a benevolence and sweet natured acceptance. What would most women say if the man they'd been out with told them they only had sex with them because she looked like their mum? Even Oedipus had the excuse that he didn't know what he was doing. It's a well-acted piece, but topples into melodrama before the end, not weird enough to be truly engaging but still with a discomfiting air that prevents you from really warming to its lead or his situation.