Monday, August 2, 2010
Bill (Jeremy Theobald) is a solitary would be writer, who takes to following people on the streets "just to see where they go." The film begins with Bill telling his story to someone. The man he's talking to assumes the worst, forcing Bill to correct him.
Older man: You were following women?
Bill: No I didn't follow women. It wasn't a sex thing I followed anybody. I wanted to see where they went, what they did.
Older Man: You were playing Secret Agent?
Bill: No I'm a writer. I want to be a writer anyway...
Bill goes on to explain how he made up rules to keep things under control, such as not following the same person twice, and not following a woman down a dark alley at night. Never following the same person twice was the most important rule and "the one that I broke first." Bill tells the man.
From there we move to the past and see the results of Bill breaking this rule, as Cobb (Alex Haw), a well dressed man with a mysterious briefcase confronts him in a coffee shop wanting to know why he's being followed. Bill is soon convinced to accompany Cobb on his work as a burglar. Cobb is clearly very intelligent and reads Bill like a book, even answer Bill's questions for him, before he has the chance.
Bill is quickly fascinated with going through people's private possessions. Cobb claims that he mostly commits burglary because he's interested in people, sharing his knowledge with Bill. He reveals that everyone has a "box" with their most private and revealing possessions. Cobb is clearly an uncoventional burglar, in addition to stealing things he adds other touches like leaving a pair of strange panties in a couples apartment. He tells Bill that the main purpose of what he does is to take things away (possessions, privacy) so that they come to appreciate them. When they're surprised by the woman of the house coming home early, Cobb makes up a flimsy excuse and they leave without incident. Bill quickly comes to admire Cobb, who suggests that Bill choose the next place.
We then move forward in time to a well dressed Bill approaching a blonde woman (Lucy Russell) in a bar. He's clearly developed more confidence and when he finds out that the woman is the bar owner's girlfriend, he doesn't back off. She reveals that she's been burgled recently and is surprised when Bill asks what being robbed is like, rather than what was taken. "Im a writer" Bill says proudly clacking his typewriter. The woman is not terribly impressed, answering with a mocking "Gosh/" She reveals that her ex boyfriend is a dangerous criminal type hints about what he's "capable of" Bill keeps asking more questions until she gets annoyed with his nosiness and leaves.
We then flash to a third point in time, where Bill is sporting some bruises and a nasty black eye. He calls Cobb for advice about a job, which he's planning to do hinself. He wants to know about self defense. Cobb makes some recommendations including a screwdrive and hammer, which he likes due to it's many possible functions.
In the first timeline, where Bill and Cobb have only recently met. Bill has chosen his own apartment as the next place they burgle, curious to get Cobb's evaluation of him from his possessions. The results, however are not flattering. Cobb gathers from his cassette tapes, that he's "a sad fuck with no social life." He also concludes from his typewriter that he wants to be a writer as opposed to being a writer. He also realizes that he's unemployed and leaves without taking anything as he could be back any moment.
In the second timeline, the well dressed more confident Bill stops by the blonde woman's house and finds her just out of the shower. She details the burglary experience, telling him all about it. She mentions that they stole one earring of a pair, and rifled through her underwear drawer. Bill asks "Why would they do that?" She answers "Come on. You know the kinky voyueristic shit men get into." Bill says "I'm not into that." When she leaves the room to get dressed, Bill rushes to open up her piano bench, apparently looking for something. He then interrupts her dressing by kissing her, she returns the kiss while looking over his shoulder as if clearly disinterested.
In the third timeline, we find beat up Bill putting on rubber gloves and tucking a hammer in his waistband.
timeline 1) Bill and Cobb break into the blonde woman's house. We witness Cobb rifling through her underwear, Bill taking some of her underwear himself and sticking it in his pocket. Bill is fascinated by her, grabbing some snapshots as well. He watches Cobb, place one earring in the piano bench. He then shows Bill, an abandoned building where he claims to be living. He recommends that Bill hold on to their take until Cobb is ready to get rid of it, or if he likes he tells Bill he can sell everything himself and give Cobb half afterwards. Cobb suggests an early supper, tellign Bill "It's covered" when he says he can't afford it.
timeline 2) Bill and the blonde woman go out to dinner. Bill tries to appear perceptive, by telling her she prefers darkened bars in order to avoid her ex boyfriend. He keeps pushing her for details wanting to know why she's afraid of him. She tells him about an incident in her apartment where they beat a guy to death with a hammer leaving a mess on her carpet. He probes for details on how she got involved with her criminal boyfriend, implying she was a prostitute, and she storms off
timeline 3)Bill sneaks around through a dark kitchen, making his way to a safe in the basement. He tries a combination he has written down and pops it open, pulling out stacks of money and a folder. He then starts to panic realizing he doesn't have a bag to carry everything. He finds some tape and starts taping it to himself.
1)Cobb and Bill are at a nice restaurant. Cobb remarks that bill is developing a taste for robbery and he'll soon develop a taste for the things that go with it, like nice dinners. He gives Bill a credit card made out to "D. Lloyd", and tells him to sign the back as D. Lloyd and they'll use it to pay for dinner. Cobb hints that he does things as well, like moving into people's houses when they go on vacation. Bill notices that the woman who walked in on them during their first job has come into the restaurant. Cobb gets upset when Bill insists that they leave, and tells Bill to get some new clothes, a shave and a haircut if he's worried about being recognized. Bill is actually doing some writing at home now. He takes Cobb's advice and shaves and cuts his hair. He starts going through the things they stole from the Blonde's house. He seems to have formed an attachment to the things, particularly the things in her keepsake box. He then calls Cobb and lies to him, claiming he's found a buyer, and that he'll give Cobb half when he gets the money.
Timelines 1 and 2 fold together when we find Cobb is in bed with the blonde, and she is aware that Bill has the stuff. Cobb tells her that Bill "took the bait" and explains exactly what Bill is going to do, hanging onto the things and pretending to sell them, and give him some money. "You'll probably get most of it back" Cobb tells her. He predicts that Bill will be too embarassed to give her panties back though. Cobb also reveals that he knew that Bill had brought them to his own place.
3) Bill is taping money to himself, beneath his pants and shirt when he's surprised by a thug coming to check on the restaurant. He hits the man with his hammer and runs away.
1 and 2) Bill shows up at the blonde's house and claims that he's been writing about burglaries which is why he's been asking her so many questions. He then demands that she return the honesty and tell him why she's still seeing her ex boyfriend. She claims that he's blackmialing her with pictures which he keeps in a safe. He suggests that he and his friend could steal them, and she tells him that she has the combination. He agrees to do it, reasoning that if he doesn't get caught it doesn't matter how dangerous the boyfriend is. She makes him promise not to look at the pictures.
He then meets with Cobb to give him the things that he supposedly couldn't fence and some money. He tells Cobb about the job he's agreed to and reveals that he's seeing the blonde. Cobb gets mad at him for being stupid and beats him up, telling him he's on his own now. Bill goes home to write, while Cobb discusses the situation with the Blonde, apparently he didn't know that Bill had slept with the blonde until Bill told her. Cobb tells her that he's been in for questioning a couple times for something and that his plan has to work.
He says that an old woma was beaten to death and they suspect him although a witness didn't get a good look at him and Bill looks similiar enough to work.
(1, 2 and 3 fold together) Bill is at home removing the money from his body. The Blonde calls him to meet, He looks at the pictures in the envelope and is angry to find only tasteful modelling pictures. He confronts her about it asking if the job was all bullshit. The blonde reveals that Cobb needed a decoy because he's suspected of murdering an old lady while robbing a place, and that they needed Bill to get caught robbing a place using Cobb's methods. She tells Bill that Cobb had followed him before confronting him in the coffee shop planning to set him up the whole time. Bill tells her that he's going to the police.
We then catch up to the beginning and Bill his just told the story to the older man who's a police inspector. The Officer reveals that they don't have any unsolved murders of old ladies on the books. He also doesn't know any Mr.Cobb.
Cobb and the blonde talk. "Down to business" Cobb says, putting on rubber gloves and asking about his hammer, and wiping his fingerprints off a glass.
The Police officer, asks if Bill has anything else he wants to tell them, suggesting there is something he hasn't covered.
Cobb then reveals that the Blonde's ex boyfriend is unhappy with her as she's become too demanding, and is also a witness to a murder. He instructed Cobb to kill her with a hammer in the same spot where the murder she witnessed happened, presumably to obscure evidence of the previous crime.
The officer reveals that the found the blonde that morning, (revealing that the framing timeline is not happening concurrently with the main timeline, but slightly further in the future) along with a hammer with two types of blood on it, one from the robbery and hers. They assume he tortured her for the safe combination, as all her fingers were broken. He further reveals that they found her underwear in his apartment, stashed with passport style photographs, as well as the missing earring, which she was wearing the mate to. The address which Bill gave them for Cobb, turns out to belong to "D. Lloyd" who just returned from vacation and reported his place burgled. of course, the found the credit card, Bill had signed as D. Lloyd at his apartment also and Bill admits that the signature is his own handwriting.
Following is a lot of fun. Shot in black and white and presumably on a tight budget, it could as easily have been an intentional choice though, as the black and white add to the feeling of a mean spirited piece in the noir tradition. It also makes full use of limited settings, using the story, including Bill's lack of means to keep that from being an obstacle. The actors all carry their roles well, Alex Haw and Jeremy Theobald are perfect as respectively, the schemer two steps ahead of everyone, and the egotistical yet naive would be artist, who delivers himself into the set up without thinking twice. Christopher Nolan also wrote the screenplay, which undoubtedly made the separate timlines blend more smoothly. Following is a fine film which catches you with it's writing and very smart story. The fact that it's Nolan's first feature length film makes it even more astonishing, and less surprising that Nolan's successive work is as impressive as it's been.