Without Shallow Grave there wouldn't be a Trainspotting, Ewan McGregor wouldn't be waving a lightsaber around in The Phantom Menace, and first-time director Saul Metzstein wouldn't have picked up an award for Late Night Shopping at the Berlin Film Festival. For it was on the Boyle-Macdonald-Hodge original that director Metzstein cut his film-industry teeth as a production runner. Back then, part of his job was to ferry around cinematographer Brian Tufano (Billy Elliot, East Is East). Now Tufano returns the favour by shooting his former driver's feature debut.
And it's the look of Late Night Shopping that first sets it apart from oh-so-many low-budget British movies. This likeable slacker comedy is cinematic through and through, from Tufano's use of rich colours and artificial light to create a distinctive night-time world to the slick tracking shots and editing cuts that give the film a very cool, very bold rhythm.
It isn't all about tricks of style, however. Jack Lothian's screenplay gets deeper beneath the skin of the characters than almost all the American slacker pics which have inspired him. The lines are funny but not quick-hit throwaways - - when Lothian confronts his characters' deficiencies of ambition and romantic confusions, he touches on everyday truths without a whiff of condescension.
The eccentricities that pepper the group's lives give the film a comic edge that manages to be both surreal and true to the alternative reality of their after-hours world. It's only when circumstances take them into daylight that they're finally forced to stop messing around and take a long hard look at themselves.
Metzstein's main cast members are sexy in an attainable, non-Hollywood way that brings extra credibility to the characters' dilemmas. The fact that the central quartet (Luke de Woolfson, Kate Ashfield, James Lance and Enzo Cilenti) nail their characters' sense of loneliness without appearing annoying or pathetic speaks volumes about the young actors' talents and their ability to work as an ensemble. Despite their personal hang-ups, you'd gladly pay the price of a cup of coffee to spend time in their company.
Late Night Shopping has an energy and originality that's been lacking in British movies of late. Made by twentysomethings, starring twentysomethings, aimed at twentysomethings, it could emerge as the coolest low-key hit of a long, hot summer.