For anyone who has ever felt like they are coasting through life in a daze, Late Night Shopping will feel oddly familiar. Although far from perfect, the charm of the characters and endearing performances, coupled with the light directorial touch from Saul Metzstein, produce an enjoyable comedy with a very British tone.
The film follows four friends (or ‘acquaintances’ as is insisted in one scene) working night-shifts in a variety of unsatisfying or stop gap vocations. The central drama revolves around Sean (Luke De Woolfson), a man who hasn’t seen his girlfriend in 3 weeks despite living with her. Slowly drifting apart, the plot doesn’t so much twist as undulate towards a satisfying conclusion for the characters.
The stand-out performance is arguably from James Lance as the womanising Vincent, the sort of man with a soundbite or quick line for any young woman who takes his fancy. Lance leaves us in no doubt as to Vincent’s caddish nature, but just keeps enough likeability to render him as a well-meaning if misguided fool. Kate Ashfield as Jody also puts in an extremely enjoyable performance as the cynical female foil to the hapless (but all for different reasons) male leads. Lenny (Enzo Cilenti), a man who cannot summon the wherewithal to even talk to a female colleague, is almost the anti-Vincent. If any individual character can seem a caricature with a mild disconnect from reality, there are many young adults who will relate to aspects of each one.
Much of the character’s conversations in the dimly lit diner bring to mind the ‘show about nothing’ nature of the American sit-com Seinfeld. If a similar approach had been taken for British twentysomethings, it is more than conceivable that it would have come out something like these diner scenes. Musing on topics that appear smaller than they actually are, the buddy comedy nature of the ensemble makes the dialogue zip along with cynical wit and youthful wryness that is extremely watchable.
As the film moves towards its crazy-golf bedecked conclusion, the characters move quite literally from the light into the dark. These are the only scenes shot during the day, and it is these directorial touches that result in the light touch which augments and moves the story along in an understated manner. Always ensuring the appropriate backdrop, this understated direction may not crackle with creative verve but more than allows for the endearing characters and their dilemmas to come to the fore.
Not all of the films aspects work, Lenny’s ‘porno reactions’ problem sits rather at odds with the rather more naturalistic problems of the characters in general and comes across as a rather forced device. In addition, despite the fact the humour derived from it maybe has us sympathetically suspending disbelief, the idea that Sean hasn’t even encountered his live-in girlfriend in weeks is a rather implausible scenario.
Overall, however, the film is an endearing comedy packed with characters that, despite being at times hard to believe or frustrating, you can’t help but enjoy spending time with for 90 minutes.