THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Low Down is the story of Frank (Aidan Gillen), a young man who seems to have become bored with his life. He spends his days as a laborer, making props for TV game shows, when what he really wants to be is an artist. His London flat is in a weird part of town; a crazy woman stands outside a nearby window hollering up to a neighbor who isn't at home. His friends are good, but their quirks are starting to get to him. And some of them are getting married and having families, leaving them without much time for hanging out. Frank wonders if there is anything better for him out there.

Kate Ashfield and Aidan Gillen in Shooting Gallery's The Low Down
Then he meets Ruby (Kate Ashfield), a cute, sexy, lively woman who makes him feel there are more possibilities than he imagined. Frank and Ruby have a typically modern relationship; after they've already had sex, she announces that she's just come out of a bad breakup and wants to go slowly. Frank says he feels the same way. Nevertheless, they are clearly attracted to one another, in spite of a few flaws (Ruby barely blinks after discovering Frank's porn stash). Being in a relationship changes Frank's outlook. He comes to understand that there are deeper meanings in life, greater goals to reach for. The problem is that, as life pulls him kicking and screaming into maturity, Frank finds himself becoming more and more scarred of embracing the new.

Movies can be poignant in two ways: some of them are obvious and up-front about the point they want to make, while others get you thinking by the quiet, unassuming way they unfold. The Low Down, which is the fifth entry in the current Shooting Gallery Film Series, takes the latter path. This approach is exactly what I liked about the movie. Writer/director Jamie Thraves tells his story in a manner that is simultaneously intimate and detached. The effect is like eavesdropping on the characters. If you hid a video camera in a room, recording every word and action of the people there, watching that video would be something like watching The Low Down. There are moments when nothing in particular seems to be happening, yet you are getting a feel for the personalities of the characters. Other times, what's happening is so personal - so immediate - that you almost want to look away to avoid staring. It's a powerful approach that gives the film added weight.

This is true in all the scenes, but particularly in the ones featuring the two main characters. Ruby and Frank participate in an uncertain ritual of attraction; they like one another but have very different outlooks on life. Frank is more restless, and his sometimes pessimistic attitude threatens to drag Ruby down. On the other side of the coin, watching his vibrant young girlfriend gives Frank a sense of hope - that he, too, can embrace maturity and envision a happier life for himself. There is also a crucial scene near the end, in which Frank confronts one of his best friends (who also happens to be a co-worker). The conclusion is perhaps the most thought-provoking of all, an intentionally ambivalent ending that lets the audience decide exactly how much Frank has grown.

This is not the first movie about someone struggling to figure out his life. Nor will it be the last. Regardless, The Low Down is certainly one of the most interesting and revealing.

( out of four)

The Low Down is unrated but contains adult language, sexuality, full-frontal nudity, and mild violence. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.
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