The Low Down

on April 20, 2001 by Chris Wiegand
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   Jamie Thraves' eye-catching music videos for British bands such as Radiohead, Blur and The Verve always promised great things, and the director's first feature film does just the same. By no means a masterpiece, "The Low Down" is however an auspicious debut that examines the lives and loves of a group of twentysomethings in London.

   Frank (the charismatic Aidan Gillen) is in his late 20s and is approaching a transitional stage in his life. Tired of sharing temporary accommodation with slacker flatmates, he decides that it might be time to buy a place of his own. When he begins to look for suitable properties, he finds more than he'd planned on in estate agent Ruby (the excellent Kate Ashfield), a similarly aged and newly-single woman with whom he tentatively begins a relationship. The film follows Frank and Ruby as they spend time getting to know each other.

   Shot in a naturalistic style reminiscent of Jean-Luc Godard and John Cassavetes, "The Low Down" is a realistic slice of urban life with some acute observations on city-dwelling. Thraves has an uncanny eye for detail in portraying the lifestyles of Frank's generation, from the boozy excess of a night out clubbing to hungover breakfasts in the local café. His direction displays a stylish photographic influence that never distracts from the characters' conversations. Some viewers may criticize the film for its occasional longeurs, but these simply add to its realistic charm. The lead actors all give strong performances, particularly Gillen, and there is a relaxed, improvisational feel to the picture. "The Low Down" could easily have ended up as yet another self-indulgent examination of contemporary relationships. Instead, it is that rare thing--a smart and original character study that presents real truths the viewer can recognize. Jamie Thraves is a director worth watching.    Starring Aidan Gillen, Kate Ashfield, Dean Lennox Kelly and Tobias Menzies. Directed and written by Jamie Thraves. Produced by John Stewart and Sally Llewellyn. No distributor set. Drama/Romance. Not yet rated. Running time: 94 min.

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