FOLLOWING (director/writer/cinematographer: Christopher Nolan; editor: Gareth Heal; cast: Jeremy Theobald (Bill), Alex Haw (Cobb), Lucy Russell (The Blonde), John Nolan (The Policeman), Dick Bradsell (The Bald Guy); Runtime: 70; Next Wave Films; 1998-UK)
“The film leaves a good impression on the viewer as one that is ably directed, written, acted, and photographed.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This is a skewed British mystery thriller shot on weekends over the course of a year on a shoestring budget of $6,000, and on 16mm black-and-white. It’s an appealing suspense yarn about an aspiring writer, a loner living in poverty and between jobs, named Bill (Theobold), who takes to the streets of his Soho neighborhood following strangers at random because he’s interested in seeing what they are doing as he pretends he is gathering material for characters in his book. When he selects someone to follow rather than doing it randomly, everything suddenly changes and he ends up following that person down a dark path he gets trapped in.
The tables are turned against Bill when one of his targets, Cobb (Haw), recognizes that he’s been followed and confronts him in a cafe. The well-dressed, clean-cut and articulate young man turns out to be a burglar who has a philosophy about his profession — he does it to experience other people’s lives and not just for the money. He willingly takes the slovenly dressed Bill along on a few jobs. They steal money, small jewelry items to be fenced later by Bill, and they take mostly personal objects such as CDs. They get a thrill out of looking through other people’s possessions. Cobb appeals to Bill’s literary sense by saying you can learn a lot about a person by looking over the contents of their place. The life of a burglar keeps Cobb with a good income, as he claims to live in places where people leave to go on holidays. He becomes a mentor for Bill, even getting him to dress and cut his hair short in imitation.
The film follows a non-linear confusing time structure, as we see things in flashback but out of order. In one scene Bill is talking with a policeman, but we don’t know why until the end of the film. The featured apartment burglary of a sexy blonde (Russell) is where the duo take her panties, one earring, photos, and other personal items. Bill is attracted to her and meets her in the club she works, where he starts a thrilling romance with her. Little does he know that he’s being set up for a double-cross, as the blonde tells him she went out once with the gangster owner of the nightclub, called the bald guy, but is no longer seeing him. The blonde gets Bill to burglarize his safe to get the photos that he’s blackmailing her with, and promises him that he can keep the money that’s in the safe. This edgy character-driven film will involve a few more double crosses and a murder, though the payoff is not quite as interesting as the telling of the story. The film leaves a good impression on the viewer as one that is ably directed, written, acted, and photographed. This is Nolan’s film debut as director. I especially enjoyed the short length of the film. In its 70 minutes it told its creepy story, and it didn’t waste time with non-essentials.
REVIEWED ON 2/2/2002 GRADE: B +
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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