A mini masterpiece of a debut from a promising director. 9/10
The Low Down (2000)
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A mini masterpiece of a debut from a promising director. 9/10
The actors look older than the immaturity of their roles would suggest. The female lead is passive to the point of pure stupidity - it's exasperating to watch. Could the actress really have had any input into the development of her character? Any self-respecting woman beyond the age of 15 would have put the male lead (her boyfriend) in his place for endlessly failing to show up and throwing chairs about when he can't have a drink - what a jerk. And why does the male lead have such difficulty in moving into a vast and expensive-looking flat? Most of us in NE London are still renting at 30 and would give up cheapo accomodation any day. Seems something of a spoilt boy dilemma as opposed to the rights of passage moment I think we are supposed to view it as. And where's all his money coming from? These blokes are supposed to be commercial artists - of a sort - but this aspect of the script is totally unconvicing. Anyone who works in that line of business would be baffled by the length of time (framed by the central relationship which we assume lasts a few weeks?)it takes two men to produce a couple of papier mache models.
As for the other characters, we learnt whether or not they were having a cup of tea and where you cold buy dope/coke. That's it. And honestly, there's better conversations going on in any pub in Dalston, any night of the week, and you don't have to pay to take part.
The sad thing is, the genre the director is working in is very interesting and the British film industry urgently needs to develop an identity of its own. So, we do need dramas that explore our own way of life in an inventive way. But this isn't going to be the start of the revolution.
Okay, so maybe The Low Down isn't technically a `gay' film.
And to be honest, the shower scene isn't all that hot.
But, I just wanted people to read this because I think The Low Down is the best film I've seen in ages about the `stupid years' - that awkward time spent after college doing stupid jobs for stupid people. It's about dealing with responsibility, outgrowing old friends, and the "rest of your life.' Can't we all relate? Anyone who is (or has been 23-28 should see it!
Aidan Gillen (from the British Queer as Folk who is amazing) plays Frank, a young wanna-be artist whose life revolves around friends and work. He knows he needs to shift his life into gear but he's not sure how to do it. Some of his friends from art school are settling down. His indecision comes to a head when he meets Ruby (Kate Ashfield who will be a big star), a pretty rel estate agent whose approach to life and its problems has an effect on him.
The director THraves did that Radiohead video with everybody lying in the street, and Blur, Travis, and The Verve and approaches this bittersweet slice of life with a cool style in perfect balance with his group of friends whose lives are at a crossrods.
And if that's not enough for you..Aiden Gillen is NAKED. I LOVED this movie!
Unlike most music industry graduates, whose first foray into the world of feature films tend to result in a series of glossy, insubstantial, set pieces impersonating a rounded whole, Thraves has created a slow-burning and engrossing mini-masterpiece about a group of twentysomething friends making the final journey into adulthood.
The star of the show is Frank, played by Aidan Gillen, best known for his part as the arrogant, charismatic Stuart in Channel 4's controversial Queer As Folk. Here he is quite the reverse - quiet, introspective, somewhat emotionally detached, although the enigmatic aura remains.
He works with two college friends making props for television comedies (Adam and Joe make a brief cameo), lives in a semi-squalid flat shared flat in Dalston and exudes a vague, unspoken dissatisfaction with his lot. The truth of the matter, as gradually unravelled by Thraves, is that he has reached a point where student-like existence is no longer enough for him.
Matters are brought to a head when he embarks on a non-committal relationship with an estate agent called Ruby, played by Kate Ashfield. They are both well-versed in this sort of arrangement yet are clearly reaching a stage in their lives where it doesn't suit either, but his stubborn unwillingness to admit this proves problematic.
The Low Down is more about capturing a moment in life than it is about telling a story and for this reason the thinness of the plot is a positive advantage. Where it transcends countless 'coming of age' efforts is in its superlative script and the ingenuity of the camera work and editing.
By using the camera like a third party in the room (think This Life but less frenetic, more natural), Thraves liberates himself from a conventional approach. To this he adds a series of effects such as freeze framing a facial expression while letting the dialogue run on, which creates a heightened verite style more akin to remembering actual events than watching fiction on screen.
The dialogue, a good deal of which looks improvised, is remarkable, capturing the awkwardness, humour, and assorted nonsense of real conversation so accurately that it's a joyous experience to witness. Never is this better executed than in a scene when Frank and friends stagger home with a curry after a night on the town.
Drunk acting is fraught with danger but this is so real, so funny, so brilliantly observed (Dean Lennox Kelly's sozzled impressions of everyone from Billy Connolly to the Blankety Blank theme tune are outrageously good) that you'll believe you were there or, at the very least, wish desperately that you were.
The Low Down is funny, sad, moving, possibly profound and definitely unique. If you appreciate subtle, intelligent British filmmaking, you really ought to see this film. If you spent your early adulthood with a ragbag of humanity anywhere near East London, then you absolutely have to.
though there are influences, most notably Ken Loach with a hint of Mike Leigh on the acting side and Nicolas Roeg on the experimental way it's directed. It's not a total success it does seem to run out of steam towards the end, but it's still a very impressive first feature and hopefully the start of a long and interesting film career for the director. (7/10)
The good side of this movie is the effort to capture an transmit the confusion of those years, but it falls hard on that, sometimes the movie captures the esense of that behavior, but those not transmit anything at all. After watching the 96 minutes I was like `so what?', not a single feeling about the film or the characters, characters that just wander, one does not know where they come, where they go, what moves them, you can not make any contact with them just watch the as watching a pst in the street.
I am waiting for the next movie to see where the director goes; it can be a very good thing or jus another empty presumptuous thing.
I think this is an amazing movie. Haters miss the point, when they say stuff like "It's boring" or "Nothing Happens"
I don't expect everyone to like it (like I said it's all about "Different Speeds") but I'd hope at least they understand it? I feel biased towards the movie, because I can identify with the lead character. We're of a similar age, and I pretty much had similar experiences and friendships, during the timespace of the movie (I'm 43 now, and still plodding along, unsure of where I'm heading in life) Although I often find myself looking up at the aeroplanes.
By Blake French:
As I prepared to watch a video screener of Jamie Thraves' "The Low Down," I had my notebook in one hand and a pencil in the other-ready to jot down any comments or discrepancies I had with the film's quality. I sat down in my favorite, fluffy chair, ready for what the filmmakers say is a view "on life, love, and other four-letter words." The movie began. After a few minutes, the film almost entirely lost my interest. My mind began to daydream about what I needed at the grocery store later that week. Occasionally, I wrote down a little note about how the dialogue lingers, the characters drift, and the story wanders, but most of the time I was sketching little smiling faces in the margins of the paper; I was that bored. The film is only 93 minutes long, but, oh God, does it seems a lot longer than that.
It is sad when years can go into making a movie that does not contain a single iota of interest. As I watched the scenes fall flat, I felt sorry for the filmmakers. Writer director Jamie Thraves, who previously won awards for short films, music videos, and TV commercials, started making this movie in late 1998. "The screenplay changed a lot during the time I was writing it," explains Thraves in the publicity notes. "As a result, Frank (the film's main character) may be a little schizophrenic but I quite like that because that's how most young men are at that age." Thraves succeeds if he wanted to make a movie that feels so authentic its like eavesdropping on someone's private life. But the film is not entertaining or engaging.
For a movie like this to work, we need several things that this movie obviously does not have. The main character, Frank (Aidan Gillen), needs to lead an interesting life-this movie can be extremely well constructed, but if there is no significant reason to watch Frank go about his daily activities, there is no purpose in viewing the film. Frank, in his mid twenties, lives a rather boring life, spending most of his days working with bizarre sculptures and hanging out with his foul-mouthed friends. He does eventually get a love interest, but that story has no impact or chemistry. It lacks passion, affection, and not a whole lot happens.
"The Low Down" does manage to capture a good mood for the characters. Its style is kind of interesting, consisting of hand-held camera work shot on Super 16 film. The production is certainly spontaneous, and the actors do a good job of making convincing characters. Aidan Gillen, from TV's controversial "Queer as Folk," is full of energy and self-motivation. Kate Ashfield, one of Britain's most promising young actresses, provides a solid romantic interest for Frank to pursue. Some of the scenes work on a unique, bizarre level; one time the characters take out their aggression on a sculpture. This scene is played against a backdrop of mind-warping music. Scenes like this prosper from their unique texture.
Ultimately, however, this film fails miserably. If a movie is going to develop its characters through short incidences and quirky situations, then it needs to be breezy and energetic with ample wit. But no. "The Low Down" doesn't keep us interested in the quirky little romance. We never care enough about the characters to pay attention to the occasional humorous touch. There is simply no conflict here, no involving drama. If you're looking for a charismatic little love story, see "When Brendan met Trudy," also from The Shooting Gallery. That film had style, wit, and interest. This one just ganders from scene to scene with no aim or direction. The dialogue lingers casually. I realize this film is supposed to be a slice of urban life, but it's not a very flavorful one. In a specific scene the characters discuss the paint color of a gigantic statue of a hand. Could we care less? I don't really think so.
It meanders along to nowhere in particular and seems to have no discernible point to it or even a narrative. Most of the characters have nothing of interest to say and the camera-work is poor. The worst thing is that several scenes are directionless, some scenes end far to early and often characters don't say more - when they really need to.
I actually felt quite angry after I watched this film because it's annoying low-level indie rubbish like this which actually holds back the British Film Industry from succeeding internationally. Films like this have no discernible audience and so are doomed to fail even before they are made. As long as Britain keeps making rubbish small-scale, low-ambition films like this then we will never move on and have a strong industry which doesn't need American finance to survive all the time.
And just to really annoy me further the talented Kate Ashfield was completely underused and wasted and was just required to play a simpering idiot to the odious character of Aiden Gillen. He's OK in 'The Wire' and 'Game of Thrones' but terrible in this film.
This was a complete waste of time for all concerned and the only bit worth watching was the bizarre sight of comedians Adam & Joe trundling in as if they'd walked into the wrong film! Anyone thinking of watching this film - do yourself a favour and simply don't bother!
i'd been meaning to see this for a while since it features the quintessential actress of such social explorations - Kate Ashfield, who EXCELS in this kind of narrative and style environment. she genuinely makes these kinds of movies a shade more watchable.
its not a hyper entertaining movie that you'd gather your friends round to watch, rather its something that a film or art student ought to watch because it simply possibly 'applies' to your future trade, its likely to be relevant in some way or another to you.
its very unheroic with a familiar plot, populated by familiar characters doing the kinds of familiar things you see everyday. but thats what make soap operas popular right? films don't always need explosions and vested heroes.
the Low Down is simply an early-twenty-something kitchen sink drama with no frills, nor grit. pretty much life as you've lived it or are about to live it. a good way to spend an hour and a half with a cuppa. your eyes may wander every so often but Ashfield will draw them back in.
It's just real man, and to capture that on film well is just beautiful. The feeling of being a fly on the wall of these familiar conversations or awkward situations that you know you've been in before is just so erm... 'interesting'!!
The best thing about owning this product, is re-watching it. The convenience of experiencing the story by simply re-watching a plastic DVD, is one of the reasons I love life. I think as time passes I will enjoy it even more and nostalgia will deepen for the symbolic takes of environment it presents in 2000.
This isn't a movie, it's film and should be appreciated as an art piece to be experienced like Janet Cardiff's work for instance. I think you'll get the most from this if you have ever been a student in London.