Night People (2005)
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All in all this is a winner, the rejuvenation of the Scottish film industry has finally arrived in the form of Night People.
To digress for a moment I'm sick and tired of "wee bobby stuck up a close films" the qualifications for funding seem to be:
(1) Is it depressing? (2) Does it show Scotland in a bad light?
Yes? Give that man a grant!
So I had no expectations regarding NIGHT PEOPLE; in fact, I had low expectations going in to watch it; as any film emanating from Scotland seems to wallow in degradation like a toddler fascinated by the contents of its potty.
Whilst I don't deny the existence of such people and places if I want to watch a tap dripping I'll switch one on in my house not pay a tenner for the privilege.
A film makers first job is to entertain.
From the get go in watching NIGHT PEOPLE I knew I was in a safe pair of hands. It's clear that Adrian Mead can tell a story evident from the brisk pace and lack of fat in the narrative.
The film follows the progress of a disparate group of people over the course of one night in Edinburgh. Mead displays a deft touch in handling such diverse subject matters as child prostitution, drug dealing and dog kidnapping.
Now it sounds like I'm contradicting myself by what I've said before.
No, TALENT RESIDES IN THE EXECUTION. NIGHTPEOPLE lacks the overweening worthiness of it's inferior counterparts.
Mead does this by injecting humour into the proceedings to vary the tone of the piece (something lacking in many monotone movies of today) and by keeping his actors on a tight rein avoiding overindulgence and bathos.
The dialogue is first class, in one exchange a priest tells a young homeless girl that God is inside her to which she retorts: " I hope he's wearing a condom."
With the exception of Alan MacCafferty the cast is made up of unknowns which works in its favour since you concentrate on the stories rather than who is baying for a Bafta. Mead also avoids the obvious temptation to interlink the stories in contrived ways. CRASH anyone?
The genius of America and Americans is having no real history of their own they created their own mythology. You see Bullitt and you want to go to San Francisco, watch Pulp Fiction and you want a milkshake in Jack Rabbit Slims. Question? Why can't the Scots do it?
When I watched Red Road it didn't make me want to visit Glasgow anytime soon. Trainspotting did nothing for Edinburgh but Adrian Mead's NIGHT PEOPLE seems to be at the vanguard of something new.
He makes Edinburgh look filmic, it's aspirational, it's a place you'd want to visit on the strength of his images. So if Meads backers have any sense they should be punting NIGHT PEOPLE to North America where I predict it will be a sleeper hit.
A stunning debut from Director Adrian Mead. Night People, does indeed take us on a journey. Dark and despairing in places, filled with hope and compassion in others.
The film is entirely character-driven. It is centred on several disparate groups of people, who are merely living out events at the same time and in the same city. The screenplay constantly switches between their individual plots. Night People might be described as a series of short films on similar themes that have been carefully edited together. But that would be unfair. The film needs this variety to disguise the fact that each of the characters spends most of their time in the same location. Unfortunately, since the film is developing half a dozen different stories at once, I think it struggles to give individual characters enough screen-time to engage fully with the audience.
Night People has a lot going for it. Visually it is very well crafted. The film makes clever use of Edinburgh's ever-changing light and sky to create some visually stunning interludes, which give the other scenes a sense of time and place. The script is strong: Some fantastic one-liners, and the kind of small observations on the human condition that everyone can relate to. Perhaps some of the funniest lines are delivered a 'wee' bit too quickly for non-Scottish audiences to comprehend. Overall the acting is first class, in spite of the relative inexperience of most of the cast.
But in the final analysis, Night People doesn't quite hang together. It's on the verge of being a really good film, but yet it left me feeling hollow.