The debut feature of filmmaking titan Christopher Nolan, Following tells the story of an unnamed young writer (Jeremy Theobald) who, to garner inspiration for his next novel, begins to follow strangers around the streets of London. Though he sets himself strict rules for such a dangerous pastime, he succumbs and breaks them almost immediately, resulting in him getting tangled into the affairs of Cobb (Alex Haw), a man who takes great pleasure in burgling homes to make the shocked owners rethink their lives. Cobb hires the young man as his partner in crime, but their decadent path soon leads to nothing but disaster.
Produced in 1998 on a budget of $6000, almost all of which was used to buy and process the 16mm film stock, Following of course has a number of limitations; Nolan had no access to lighting packages and fancy editing suites, but his unique direction has explored a number of techniques to bypass such setbacks. The film is entirely black and white, disguising its visual and lighting flaws whilst creating a suitably dark and unsettling vibe. Nolan has also done a sound job of editing the audio (sorry) to make it as clean as possible, and a simple yet extremely ambient score by David Julyan helps to establish a mysterious atmosphere.
The story is delivered in a non linear fashion across these 70 minutes - things are kept pretty tight and every scene is as crucial as the last. Of course a short runtime for a rather complex story can make certain sections feel a little rushed or underdeveloped, and it's not too difficult to get lost as the film nears its climax, but those who stay focused will find much to enjoy as the narratives unique twists unfold before them.
The acting is generally top notch, especially as these are all unknown friends of Nolan who nowadays have gone on to different careers. The protagonist played by Theobald can be a little bland with his delivery, but generally provides a nice paranoid opposition to the arrogant and intimidating finnesse of Cobb, played wonderfully by Alex Haw. Supporting actors include Lucy Russell, John Nolan and Dick Bradsell, all of whom play lesser yet crucial roles superbly. Following is an inspirational no budget feature, proving that technical limitations can be overcome with talented direction and a solid script. Visually it hasn't aged well, but its clever storytelling and enticing characters provide enough thrills to distract us from that.