Christopher Nolan is currently in my good books. His career so far has been limited to less than a handful of films yet I’ve loved them all — Memento, Insomnia and Batman Begins; all have delivered darkness, tension with just a spot of black humour where needed and I find them all hard to fault.
Following is one of Nolan’s earlier works. Filmed in London in 1998 on a budget of less than £4,000 and shot entirely on 16mm black and white film it tells the story of unemployed writer Bill (Jeremy Theobald) who picks people at random and follows them, watching their lives for inspiration for new characters. Becoming addicted to this, he ends up getting heavily involved in the lives of several people he’s been following after being spotted and challenged by followee Cobb (Alex Haw).
Like Memento, Following is played out of sequence though not in the same ordered-yet-backward way — here we jump from the end to the middle to the beginning seemingly at random but it’s surprisingly easy to follow; it helps that the lead character’s appearance radically changes at several points, allowing you to piece events together as you go along.
It’s real film-student stuff, is nicely English, and I love it; with the exception of Theobald who starred in the 3-minute long Doodlebug (also directed by Nolan), none of the cast had acted before this and most of the principal filming took place only on Saturdays due to everyone having full-time jobs. It doesn’t affect the quality of the film, though — Theobald (think of an English John Cusack) and Haw (just think English) are both excellent although Theobald makes a slightly better narrator than he does an actor, struggling a little with some of the more passionate scenes. Despite this, I’m surprised we’ve not seen more of them, particularly Haw. (Most of the cast make small appearances in Batman Begins, incidentally, though I think only Nolan’s uncle (who plays The Policeman in Following) gets a speaking role.)
The plot twists and turns in an appealing fashion but doesn’t rely on a single climactic revelation in the way of, for instance, any film directed by M. Night Shyalaman. As in Memento, part of the pleasure is in finding out how the characters reached a certain point, rather than what they do when they arrive.
Definitely worth watching.