The territory explored by Jamie Thraves in his feature film debut The Low Down
is hardly new: late-20-something faces crisis over settling down/growing up/moving on. But it's the laid-back, improvisational way he deals with the subject that makes it compelling. Frank (Aidan Gillen, in altogether more introspective mode than Queer as Folk
) is beginning to realise he's outgrown the bohemian fantasy of his art-student days, tiring of the squalor of his surroundings, the drug dealers next door. It's only with the appearance of the more optimistic Ruby (Kate Ashfield), whom he meets when she shows him round various flats, that he actually gets the impetus to change his life. The tentativeness with which Frank and Ruby get together, hovering between insecurity and desire, is acutely observed, while his relationships with friends and fellow workers (he's a TV prop designer, which makes for some good visual gags), by turns laconic, pissed-off and hilarious, are disconcertingly true to life.
Gillen and Ashfield are terrific, but so are the supporting cast--particularly Dean Lennox Kelly and Tobias Menzies as friends Mike and John. The Low Down is a thoroughly absorbing film, its emotional edginess highlighted by the hand-held camera and by the freeze-framing to distort time. The effect is quirky and inviting rather than annoyingly arty, and Thraves is clearly one to watch.
On the DVD: The Low Down on disc has a featurette with just under eight minutes of excerpts. There's a commentary on the film, plus a brief sample of fly-on-the-wall footage in "On Location". Don't get overexcited about the promise of Cast and Crew Interviews, though, since they are very soundbitey and not very profound (for example, Jamie Thraves on making his first feature film: "I've felt more relaxed than I've ever done"). And of course there's the usual theatrical trailer. --Harriet Smith
DVD Special Features
Cast and Crew Interviews with Jamie Thraves, Aidan Gillen, Kate Ashfield, Dean Lennox Kelly, Tobias Menzies, Rupert Proctor
Picture: 1.85:1 anamorphic
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0