Late Night Shopping (2001) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be R for language and sexual content
Running Time: 91 min.

Cast: Luke de Woolfson, James Lance, Kate Ashfield, Enzo Cilenti, Heike Makatsch, Shauna Macdonald, Sienna Guillory
Director: Saul Metzstein
Screenplay: Jack Lothian
Review published September 15, 2005

Late Night Shopping 2001Four friends, all in their 20s, spend time together after working the graveyard shift in their respective dead-end jobs.  They are all at a crossroads in their lives, both in terms of career and relationships, and each road looks like it's headed for a dead end.  Sean (de Woolfson, Large) works as a hospital orderly at night, while his girlfriend (Makatsch, Love Actually) works days, and although they live together, they never see one another anymore.  Vincent (Lance, The Search for John Gissing) works at a supermarket, while he spends most of his days trying to bed as many single women as he can, including, apparently, Sean's girlfriend.  Lenny (Cilenti, Millions) does telemarketing, but he's too shy to ask out the attractive redhead (Macdonald, The Descent) in his office, so he invents a phony phone persona and calls her for an evening out.  Jody (Ashfield, Shaun of the Dead) works on an electronics circuit board assembly line, at least she did until she gets canned, but she still can't get out of the routine of hanging out at the coffee shop.

Late Night Shopping is a low budget comedy made in Scotland that has no plot other than to show the state of mind that generates from the doldrums of life for young men and women on the lowest rung of the social and economic ladder.  They take menial jobs just to pay the bills, while in their free time, they aren't involved in relationships that seem to be leading anywhere, and in general, they are in a complete state of limbo.  They think they're missing out on what's going on in the rest of the world, their city, and even in their own lives, but they do come together because of one thing -- they all share that fact in common.  That, and there's nothing better to do.

It's a film that derives its energy from the characterizations, bolstered by acute observations in the script by Jack Lothian (writer for a similarly premised TV series, "20 Things to Do Before You're 30") . There are moments of contrivance and predictability, but they are deftly handled by director Saul Metzstein (Guy X, The Name of This Film is Dogme95) , who keeps the movie from descending into pure sitcom even when it seems like that's the only place it is able to go.  However, all would be for naught without the right actors in the four main roles, and for that, Late Night Shopping is blessed with a solid cast that play well off of each other.  They seem like people that would definitely hang out together for convenience, even thought they are only superficially connected to each other, perhaps knowing that the state of limbo that they are in will one day pass and they will graduate from each other.

Although all of this sounds like serious stuff, it is actually a light and amusing movie on the surface, good for a few genuine laughs and moments of wit.  Recommended for viewers that are similarly in seemingly dead-end situations without hope to get out, or at least those that remember what it was like and can laugh about it.  If you like films about people and dialogue like Clerks and Swingers, give this one a shot.

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo