The Following

Sep 15, 1999 at 12:00 am

This little on-the-cheap, black-and-white British film has all the earmarks of a classic film noir – a story told in flashback, a femme fatale and a hapless protagonist who, try as he may, simply doesn’t know the score.

The premise that writer-director Christopher Nolan uses to jump-start his plot is a little shaky, but once you get past that things move along nicely. Our hero-sap, billed simply as "the Young Man" (Jeremy Theobald), is an unemployed writer who, out of boredom and loneliness, one day decides to start following people – no kinky motives, he insists, just curiosity and nothing better to do. He even sets himself some ground rules, the most important being not to follow the same person twice – a rule he inevitably breaks, for reasons as vague as why he started following people in the first place.

The story proper begins when one of his subjects approaches him and asks, quite reasonably, why he’s being followed. This turns out to be Cobb (Alex Haw), a dapper young fellow who seems more amused than angry at being the object of the writer’s odd hobby. Cobb himself is a professional and rather philosophical burglar, someone who considers his thieving to be a sort of art. Not only does he confide in "the Young Man," but he offers to take him along to watch as he plies his trade. From this point on, nothing – or very little – is quite what it seems to be.

For some reason Nolan has decided to jazz up his already clever story by telling it out of sequence. It’s an unnecessary affectation. Nolan’s an inventive talent and since he can pull off a twisty tale like this on a shoestring, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do with a budget.

Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for the Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].