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With: Aidan Gillen, Kate Ashfield, Dean Lennox Kelly, Tobias Menzies, Rupert Procter, Samantha Power, Deanna Smiles, Maggie Lloyd Williams, Agnieszka Liggett, Adam Buxton, Joe Cornish
Written by: Jamie Thraves
Directed by: Jamie Thraves
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 96
Date: 08/05/2000

The Low Down (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

A Day in the Life...

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One of critic Roger Ebert's movie rules goes like this: If nothing happens in the first reel (about 20 minutes), nothing is going to happen. That pretty much sums up The Low Down, the new British release from the Shooting Gallery. Nevertheless, The Low Down plays like a naturally growing organism. It feels completely organic and our interest never flags, despite the fact that nothing really significant happens.

Fans of "reality" TV shows should get a look at The Low Down. It mostly follows a character named Frank (Aidan Gillen, from "Queer as Folk") who halfheartedly looks for a new place to live, goes to work as a prop builder for TV shows, and dates a cute blonde named Ruby (Kate Ashfield, also in Tim Roth's The War Zone) who works at the real estate office. He has a couple of friends who work with him and go out drinking with him at night.

Refreshingly, writer-director Jamie Thraves is not interested in much more of a plot than this. These characters are not going to solve any crimes or rescue kidnapped girls or wonder if they'll ever get married. Thraves puts his faith in us that we will care about these three-dimensional characters and their small, everyday worries and triumphs. And he's right. Thraves perfectly captures how we act on a first date, sharing a cup of coffee with a roommate or goofing around at work. He realizes that we put on different faces for people, depending on how long ago we met them and how comfortable we are around them. A couple in the movie who have been together for ages fight and bicker with each other, and the male insists on doing impressions all the time, perhaps to cover up some deep-rooted insecurity (he does a pretty good Al Pacino).

Frank appeals to us because he knows his life is missing something yet he doesn't spend 90 minutes whining about it. He himself doesn't even know what he's looking for, so he just shrugs and keeps looking. In fact, none of the characters ever really talks about his or her feelings. We just know that they're there. Thraves trusts that we will recognize these things on our own without having to explain them to us.

Thraves also avoids painting some larger picture or statement with all this. He's not attempting to define a generation or a moment or a political theory, nor does he judge his characters. To quote an episode of "The Simpsons," "It's just a bunch of stuff that happened."

Amazingly, Thraves falls into the category of "music video director," having made videos for Radiohead and Neneh Cherry. Most music video directors who make the transition immediately butcher a feature film, using too many cuts and short-attention-span techniques to make their three-minute talent last 90 minutes. Thraves doesn't have to do that. He breathes deeply and lets the time fly by as if it were reality itself. Far more real, in fact, than "Survivor" or any of its brain-dead knockoffs.

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