Eye For Film >> Movies >> Late Night Shopping (2001) Film Review
Late Night Shopping
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
In a city that sleeps, some people have to work. Four friends hang out in a caff during their night shift, lost in limbo, hating their jobs.
"Do you ever get the feeling we're missing out on something?"
"Yeah, all the time."
Saul Metzstein's first film, brilliantly scripted by Jack Lothian, has the confidence of a true original. David Kane, whose Born Romantic was the best British ensemble movie of the year before this, would have softened the hard edges with a soupcon of sentiment and more up-front humour.
Lothian's characters do not rely on charm. They are unapologetically themselves, flawed, afraid, angry, confused. Intimacy and commitment seem beyond their reach.
"We're not really friends," Jody (Kate Ashfield) says. "What's my surname? Where do I work? What's my favourite colour?"
Lenny (Enzo Cilenti) guesses the colour, but hasn't a clue about the rest.
Sean (Luke de Woolfson) is a hospital porter, who is uncertain whether his girlfriend still lives with him. He works nights, she works days. They never meet. He checks the shape of the soap to see if it's changed. He strokes the bathroom towel for evidence of damp.
Vincent (James Lance) stacks shelves in a supermarket. The job bores him rigid, but provides enough spending money to indulge his true vocation, picking up girls. A self-confessed, one-dimensional shallow person, he has strict rules - three strikes and they're out.
Lenny sits in front of a computer in a room filled with similar robotic figures, answering calls to Directory Enquiries. He is agonisingly shy with women, partly because he used to write fake letters to men's magazines about sexual fantasies and now suffers what he calls "porno reactions" to anything in a skirt.
Jody is sacked from the electronics factory, which only inflates her feeling of insecurity. Of all of them, she is the most grounded, staring into the abyss without blinking. Only she knows why they hang out in the caff.
"There's nothing better to do."
"That's the single most depressing thing I have ever heard," Sean says, probably because it's true.
As an insight into the hidden world of low maintenance ambition, Late Night Shopping is a landmark in positive nihilism. The actors excel and appear to have genuine rapport. Metzstein's style is individual, with touches of inspiration that can be surprising and funny.
Lothian's writing scrapes cliche off the sole of the sitcom, creating a disparate group of losers, who make you care about the educated underclass and worry about their welfare.Reviewed on: 29 May 2001
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