The Shooting Gallery series has finally gotten hold of a first film that doesn’t seem as though it was shot by the brightest kid in his or her film class, but rather by someone with a natural talent.
The assumed goal of British writer-director Jamie Thraves’ debut isn’t all that original, just a little slice of modern life, dotted with humor and ambiguity. But it’s enriched by the fact that he seems to have ingested whole the variegated influences of Mike Leigh and John Cassevetes, and put them to the service of his personal vision. Thraves compiles small strokes, stringing together scenes which never go much further than some little nugget of information, and the pieces hang together with an offbeat, nodding rhythm. He lulls you with his subdued but pitch-perfect naturalism, then snaps you to attention with some outburst of fierce emotion.
Thraves’ feckless 20-something hero Frank (Aidan Gillen) is living an offhand life, uncommitted to his job as a painter of props for TV shows, to his new girlfriend and even to whether or not he should move to a new flat. Indecisive and with a bland amiability that masks a seething anger, he’s in no better or worse shape than his three best friends, all passive-aggressive types hiding behind varying facades of indifference and irreverence. You know that the seams of this dubious camaraderie are eventually going to split, but Thraves doesn’t want to force this slacker everyman to some point of crisis. He just wants you to spend some time with him.
And with a style that’s seemingly improvisational but actually meticulously controlled, he draws you in until it all actually seems to matter. It’s a quietly brilliant film.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Star Rochester Hills (200 Barclay Circle, Rochester Hills) as part of the Shooting Gallery Film Series. Call 248-853-2260.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for the Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.