Today’s movie is Following the ultra-low-budget debut film from writer/director Christopher Nolan. Since the movies that Nolan makes now are tentpole blockbusters with quarter-billion dollar production budgets, it’s really interesting to go back and see what the same guy did with a budget so low that it had to be filmed on weekends over the course of an entire year, because the cast and crew all had regular jobs. However, the film really does stand on its own merits and does stand on its own merits as a well-structured stylish character study that also contains a compelling plot that is served well by an unorthodox narrative structure.
The film is a twisting neo-noir crime thriller, shot in black and white that is presented in a twisted non-linear time line. Jeremy Theobald stars as an The Young Man, an unemployed aspiring writer who passes his time by following people. It starts out innocently enough, sort of an active form of people-watching. However, one day the man he’s following spots him, and introduces himself as Cobb (Alex Haw). Rather than threatening The Young Man, Cobb invites him to join him in his own recreation, burglary. From there things only escalate as the pair get mixed up with an attractive blonde with a checkered past (Lucy Russell). Things only get more interesting as the various plot elements twists and turns before reaching a conclusion that re-casts everything that came before it.
The film’s narrative is non-linear, but still focuses almost entirely on The Young Man. Nolan keeps the confusion to a minimum through some clear changes in Theobald’s appearance depending on which of the three distinct narrative threads is being presented. There’s just enough confusion early on to be intriguing, rather than off-putting, and by the end of the movie Nolan has provided the audience with all the information needed to put the various pieces together.
I really enjoyed watching this movie. Nolan succeeds in turning budget limitations into stylistic elements that add to the story. The grainy black-and-white footage is caused by Nolan having to shoot on the cheapest filmstock he could possibly get away with, but it really adds to the atmosphere and feel of the film. Meanwhile, the screenplay is both clever and memorable, it containing some twists and turns that for the most part stand up and make sense when all is said and done. Following is a little rough around the edges; the acting isn’t all that great ad there is at least one logical leap that I didn’t entirely buy. However, for a first time effort, it’s a hell of a film, and it’s certainly well worth seeing.