This first feature by Jamie Thraves, a British writer-director who’s previously made short films as well as commercials and videos, is obviously inspired, in terms of its loose construction and improvisatory air, by the French New Wave pictures of the 1950s and 1960s, like Godard’s “Breathless.” (At times a blast of Gallic music is even posted on the soundtrack to trumpet the debt.) In the case of the present meandering, dreary effort, however, the title would have to be “Aimless” or “Pointless.” “The Low Down” is a cinematic slice of life cut far too thin to provide any intellectual or emotional nourishment; it’s a stink-bomb of a movie, an embarrassment to the Shooting Gallery series of independent films of which it’s a part.
Thraves’ lackadaisical script centers on Frank (Aidan Gillen, who rather resembles a young Gary Oldman), a disenchanted twenty-something guy who works with two buddies, boisterous Mike (Dean Lennox Kelly, with an extraordinarily prominent chin) and undependable John (Tobias Menzies, acting the true slacker), making outlandish props for cheap TV shows (though they never seem to complete a single one). Most of the plot, to use the word loosely, has to do with Frank wandering about glumly (he’s discontented with his life, you see), and entering into a supposedly romantic relationship with Ruby (Kate Ashfield), a real estate agent whom he approaches in a search for a new apartment–a move that (gasp!) would represent his starting a new stage in his hitherto unremarkable existence. There are, to be sure, other characters who pop in and out of the picture, but one would be hard pressed to say who they are or why they’re there; somebody named Terry (Rupert Proctor), for instance, seems to be living with Frank, and at one point we’re informed that he once tried to commit suicide, but why we should care is not apparent.
Thraves directs the desultory, tedious sequence of scenes he’s constructed with all-too-obvious stabs at “style” (lots of hand-held camera work, a couple of pointless freeze frames, and other such film-school exercises), but he never imparts any sense of rhythm or energy to the piece. Too often the picture just rambles on, as was once said about a history text, from one damned thing to another, none of them amounting to much. The episodes are jumbled and disconnected, and most of them seem to go on forever. The utterly pedestrian dialogue doesn’t help; one can only hope that most of it was improvised, and isn’t the result of Thraves’ laboring deep into the night over his word processor to so little effect.
Late in the film Mike dismisses John’s observation that he’s attempting to hold an intelligent conversation by telling him, “You’d better try harder.” Surely these are words that the filmmakers should themselves take to heart. True to its title, Thraves’ feeble little fable couldn’t sink any lower.