Director: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw and Lucy Russell
Scale back the multi-million-dollar budgets and gorgeous visuals of Tenet, Dunkirk & Inception and behind them is Christopher Nolan; one of the most consistently interesting and often excellent filmmakers of our time. Looking back beyond the capes and cowls of the Dark Knight Trilogy, and a little before the final scene of Memento, Nolan’s directorial debut was the low-budget crime film, Following.
Much like Nolan’s later work, his debut plays with time. The narrative isn’t linear but jumps all over the place. You have to pay attention to what the characters are wearing, how long their hair is. In an early scene you see the main character, simply credited as The Young Man (Jeremy Theobald) after he has clearly been attacked, it’s not until close to the end that we actually see why. It feels very similar, but much smaller in scale, to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. In the late 90s there was a whole wave of films that were trying to replicate Tarantino’s style; Following sets itself apart from that by giving an interesting story that is mystified by the non-linear way it’s told.
The Young Man is a wannabe writer who can’t write. He decides to ‘shadow’ people, following them around trying to figure out who they are and why they are where they are. He breaks his own rule and starts to choose who to follow, which causes complications. He ends up being brought into a world of crime and doesn’t look back.
The story and its twist towards the end work really well. It’ll keep you guessing through its short run time (not that it needed to be any longer) and you won’t see the ending coming, although there are clues beforehand. The acting is so-so. It’s not great, not horrific but does reflect the low-budget production of the film. The story feels like it wouldn’t be as engaging if it wasn’t for the structure of the story, which keeps you guessing right up to the end.
Cobb, played by Alex Haw, is the most interesting of the characters. He is a thief who steals from people because he believes “You take it away, and show them what they had.”. It’s through Cobb that The Young Man learns about the world of crime and decides to get involved, rather than stay clear. The story is bookended by two scenes featuring John Nolan (Christopher Nolan’s uncle) as a policeman asking The Young Man for his version of the story. The whole film feels like we are being told it through memories making it more interesting and engaging.
Following may be Nolan’s first film, but it isn’t his weakest. The film is clever, entertaining and gripping. It flies by with only a 70 minute run time and has some interesting characters. It’s only really let down by the weak acting. It would be interesting to see this film re-visited with everything Nolan has learnt in the almost quarter of a century since.