Movie Review: Following (1998)
“You’re Never Alone.”
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell
Synopsis: A young writer who follows strangers for material meets a thief who takes him under his wing.
A scruffy would-be writer (Jeremy Theobald) fills his hours following strangers. One day, he’s confronted by a man he’s been following who turns out to be a burglar (Alex Haw). Fascinated and repulsed by what the burglar does, the writer finds himself increasingly drawn to his way of life, especially when it results in him befriending a woman (Lucy Russell – Batman Begins, World War Z) who claims she is being blackmailed by a local gangster.
Christopher Nolan’s story has a non-linear plot similar to his later hit Memento, but has little else in common with that film. Shot in grainy black and white and with little ambient sound other than that made by the actors, the world of Following seems a self-contained and insulated one, lending it a sense of unreality which is heightened by an atmospheric score laden with tension and foreboding. While ostensibly a twist-in-the-tail thriller which is perhaps needlessly convoluted by its non-linear chronology, the film is also a study of voyeurism, of our fascination by and for others, our inherent curiosity about their lives. The writer’s habit of following strangers is fairly harmless, but when taken a step further – as illustrated by the attitude and behaviour of the burglar – it quickly becomes a highly dangerous game of subterfuge and double (and triple) cross which suggests that merely by watching we become in some way a part of the events we witness. There’s no doubt the film becomes a far-fetched example by the end credits, but it’s also an intriguing one.
Perhaps Following’s biggest drawback is the variable quality of the acting. While Jeremy Theobald, for the most part, nails a completely believable naturalistic style, Alex Haw’s inconsistent performance as the burglar means that he ranges from very good to very poor. Lucy Russell’s performance is at least consistent – it’s not very good throughout: a lack of expression complemented by a monotone delivery.
Overall, Following is an entertaining little movie, but the chances of the deceit it portrays working in real life are exactly nil, which obviously weakens its chances from the outset. It works better if viewed as an example of the developing skills of an emerging director rather than a standalone film in its own right.
(Reviewed 21st October 2011)
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