Nobody Walks In LA

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Nobody Walks In LA
"Becca and Miles are loud, brash, deeply self-centered and more than a little twee. Shapiro's greatest success is in persuading us to stick with them anyway and, over time, to develop affection for them."

Miles (Adam Shapiro) is in a low place. He's recently had a fight with his girlfriend and he doesn't want to face the world - it seems wiser to stay in bed and ignore everything. Becca (Kim Shaw), his oldest friend, disagrees. Perhaps she's genuinely concerned. Perhaps she just wants a target for her angst about a prospective move to New York. Either way, she insists that he join her on a day of wandering around the streets of Los Angeles, ignoring phone calls, trying to rediscover the city that thrilled them both when they were kids.

Like Jem Cohen's Museum Hours, Nobody Walks In LA is as much concerned with the tour on which it takes us as with the experiences of its characters. It's exploring the frequently neglected aspects of a city that every viewer will find familiar from the silver screen. Although its characters are very middle class and the same is true of the locations they visit - they seek out the ugly as well as the beautiful, yet never come into contact with the slums - it still reveals aspects of the city's diversity which help to provide a fresh perspective on its architecture and infrastructure. More than anything, it is replete with nostalgia for a time when the whole city was built around interlinked communities, before it became overwhelmed by starstruck incomers. The fact that its protagonists are too young to remember any of this directly adds to its oblique charm. It's a story about storytelling in which fiction and reality blur.

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As well as being young, Becca and Miles are loud, brash, deeply self-centered and more than a little twee. Writer/director Jesse Shapiro's greatest success is in persuading us to stick with them anyway and, over time, to develop affection for them as they open up to one another. Painful though it can be, their insensitivity is part of their humanity. At one point, Becca's attention is captured by the sight of an old woman sitting outside, knitting. It's a moment of stillness around which the structure of the film revolves and it suggests a yearning to get beyond the urgency of youth, as if all this furious bonding with the city is not, as the two claim, about the importance of moments, but more about finding a place to anchor in a sea of uncertainty. Drink, dancing and tiredness gradually bring that still place within reach.

Presented as one long conversation, this is a film that may try the patience of some viewers. Its dialogue is realistic rather than witty; it doesn't present the audience with an easy narrative but is there to be observed, like the city, in its beauty and its ugliness. This is an interesting approach for a first feature and leaves one wondering where Shapiro will go next. As a hymn to a beloved place, it is only partially successful, but as a study of the relationship between people and places it has a noteworthy contribution to make.

Reviewed on: 04 Nov 2016
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Two friends explore Los Angeles together as they wrestle with potentially life-changing decisions.

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