Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell
Plot: A man (Theobald) develops a hobby of following strangers to get a glimpse into their lives, which draws him into a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
To truly understand the power of Following, one must dive into the context of the production of this film. This is widely known as the first feature from Christopher Nolan and it is the first sign that this British director could be a powerful name in the film industry. It is a very inexpensive movie, Nolan paying for the actors and footage space out of his own salary. He uses natural light and had to complete each shot in the first or second take, making the filming a nightmarish ordeal. However, if you can overlook certain budget cuts in the finished product, Following is a great piece of cinema and worth every struggle worked through in production.
The amazing thing about Following is that we can already see Nolan’s style breaking through. The way he tells stories and breezes through exposition is clear. Following is not only a complicated story, but Nolan tells it in a chopped up chronology, so we spend most of the movie jumping through several timelines, making this one of those movies that requires multiple viewings to truly understand. It is fun piecing together what actually happens with Nolan using objects minimally yet still getting across the information we need to know. A stray piece of jewellery connects several timelines together, actually an important piece of character development. As the movie hits its final act, the storyline needs to straighten out a bit, so when Nolan hits us with the final few twists he has lined up, we can actually stand a chance at wrapping our heads around what we are seeing. Some have criticised the ending for feeling a little cheap – a twist for twist’s sake – but personally, the way the story connects together, like the final piece of a jigsaw clicking into place, that moment of brilliance really impressed me, cementing Nolan’s position as one of the greater directors of our time. For the eagle-eyed viewer, keep an eye out for little omens for a promising future career, especially when a certain superhero logo crops up on a door.
If the story doesn’t work for you, or you simply cannot quite appreciate its twisting and turning plot on a first watch, the style will be the hook that keeps you invested. There is a certain sophistication and glamour to Nolan’s seedy London shoot. While the low quality camera purposefully gives Following a grainy, sleazy look (the main character is a glorified stalker after all!), it juxtaposes this with an elegance, personified by Alex Haw’s charming burglar and Lucy Russell’s glamorous femme fatale. There is a neo-noir tone over the whole affair, without ever really embracing the clichés surrounding the genre. It is easy to get swept along in the story, as the characters glide across set-pieces, coming across as a blurred mix of dreamlike figures, yet grounded in reality. It creates this enigmatic aura surrounding the entire film that makes you determined to figure out what Nolan has in store for us. Sure, there are things I would change about the film, like upgrade the cast to people who could truly convey the story that Nolan wants us to. Theobald struggles with some of the more exposition-heavy lines, feeling as lost as his character is meant to be. However, that is a problem with the budget. When we look at what Nolan had to make this film, and then what he came out with as a finished product, I say the Following is a resounding success.
Final Verdict: It all started with Following, a time capsule of everything great about Nolan.