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'The Low Down' Scores High

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 20, 2001

   


    'The Low Down' Kate Ashfield and Aidan Gillen in "The Low Down." (Allastair Payne)
"Low Down," a pleasant ambush of a movie, has such a prosaic, straightforward approach, it's sublime.

Set in contemporary London, the movie's about a small circle of young British friends and acquaintances – their conversations, their quirks, their homes, their jobs, their arguments, their pub visits and their ineffective attempts to have fun, fall in love and get along with each other.

The story, the feature debut of writer-director Jamie Thraves, is built around Frank (Aidan Gillen), a person in his late twenties who feels unformed. His life consists of his job as a maker of props and socializing with his friends. He wants to do something different, something better, but he has no idea what.

His first step is to move out of his group house. This brings him into contact with Ruby (Kate Ashfield), a sweet-natured real-estate agent who helps him search for a new flat. Friendly, optimistic and clearly interested in him, she's a perfect candidate for a romance. But as soon as they start dating, Frank comes up against himself; he's emotionally bottled-up, unable to communicate well with a love partner.

Whether Frank will be able to accept maturity and happiness hangs over the movie, as we spend time with his friends and associates, including Mike (Dean Lennox Kelly), John (Tobias Menzies), Terry (Rupert Procter) and Lisa (Samantha Power). It turns out everyone is working at similar issues: desperately searching for happiness and fulfillment but somehow falling short.

"The Low Down" is a movie about getting up in the morning and having little idea what's ahead. This spirit evokes the era of the French New Wave, a heady time in the late 1950s and 1960s in France, when a movie meant a half-written script, a few intelligent French men and women behind the camera, usually one beautiful woman in front of the camera – that camera being someone's borrowed 16-millimeter Arriflex. To make a movie was to embrace life with an honest bear hug, camera running.

"The Low Down" exudes that seriousness about life and openness about style. It's about nothing and yet everything. And if the term "slice of life" hadn't been so overused, it could have applied here. The great thing about "The Low Down" is its atmosphere, and its aftermath: This movie's open-ended conclusion doesn't leave you with a sense of narrative completion but rather a wealth of new possibilities.

"The Low Down" (Unrated, 94 minutes) – Contains sexual scenes, a little violence and obscenity.

 

Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company


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