Following is the one of the cleverest, smartest, toughest psychological thrillers since...well...since Memento. Bill (Jeremy Theobald) is an unsuccessful wannabe writer. "I've been on my own for a while," he tells an older man at the beginning of the movie, "and getting kind of lonely...and bored...nothing to do all day. And that's when I started shadowing."
Bill will pick out a person and spend the day secretly following them around, seeing what they do and who they meet, what their lives are like. Fate, or something more sinister, takes a hand when he follows Cobb (Alex Haw) one day...and Cobb confronts him in a cafe. Cobb is about Bill's age, but he's smart and assured. And a thief. He breaks into people's flats and takes things, not just for the money. He convinces Bill, almost in a seduction, to follow him around while he does this. Bill is torn between fascination and unease, and fascination wins. Cobb explains to him that "interrupting someone's life is what it's all about. Making them see all the things they take for granted."
One night Bill meets an attractive blonde (Lucy Russell) in a nightclub owned by her boyfriend, an older, ruthless criminal who deals in drugs and pornography. As their relationship develops, so does his relationship with Cobb. Cobb may not be the best guy around to trust. Maybe not Lucy, either.
You might think the movie is a linear neo-noir until you realize that while some scenes are not in a linear context, they still provide clues to what's happening to Bill. In one scene he may be scruffy. In the next scene more-or-less well groomed. He may have a bruise the size of a fist on his cheek with a white rubber glove stuffed in his mouth; in the next scene, no bruise, no glove. The scenes aren't in any chronological context, but they aren't random. They're great as a way to cleverly capture your attention. They make you suspicious of what you're seeing and of what seems to be happening. We realize Bill's story is a lot more complicated than we think, and that Bill's version doesn't seem likely to be the only version. The conclusion makes absolute sense when we look back at everything, and it is totally unexpected.
Nolan, who made Memento three years after Following, is a master at cleverly moving around pieces of a puzzle. If Memento was close to being a masterpiece of indirection, Following shows Memento wasn't a lucky one-shot. The movie, according to IMDb, was shot on a budget of about $6,000 on weekends. The cast and crew were friends, coworkers and relatives. It doesn't look like the work of amateurs at all. This is a fully professional film. The cast, incidentally, does an outstanding job. Only Russell seems to have gone on to a professional acting career. Theobald captures the feel of a person who doesn't just follow, but is essentially a follower. And Alex Haw as Cobb brings to the role all the competent, assured superciliousness of a young Rupert Everett, and that's intended as a compliment.
The movie was shot full frame and the DVD transfer looks just fine. There are a number of extras that fans of Nolan will most likely find of interest, including a Nolan commentary. For people who can't stand puzzles, one of the extras includes the ability to restructure the story chronologically. You are strongly advised to resist temptation .
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About the reviewer
C. O. DeRiemer (Charley2)
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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