Chasing Robert Barker, 2015.
Directed by Daniel Florencio.
Starring Gudmundur Thorvaldsson, Patrick Baladi, Celyn Jones, Patrick Regis, Hilda Péter and Elizabeth Boag.
A photographer turned paparazzi is caught in the downward spiral of a fabricated tabloid story.
Ahead of its premiere at the East End Film Festival this month, Kickstarter-funded Chasing Robert Barker has demonstrated that it has a steely backbone for grit, drama and realism, all wrapped up in a multi-national London-based production.
From Brazilian director Daniel Florencio, Chasing Robert Barker boasts a stunning cast, hailing from the likes of Hungary, Iceland, the UK and Libya. The film follows a professional photographer-turned-paparazzo, David (played by Gudmunder Thorvaldsson) through a short few heady days as he attempts to snap photos of actor Robert Barker for the Showbiz Editor (Olly, played by Patrick Baladi) of a tabloid newspaper. All the while, David is dealing with a bad case of hyperthyroidism, leading to increased anxiety and tremours, and the recent suicide of his wife Helena. Spurred on by Olly to take further risks in order to get the perfect tabloid shot of the actor, David’s life spirals out of controls and catalyses a web of cause-and-effect reactions through the network of people with whom he associates.
Thorvaldsson, who plays the protagonist David, is an evocative and gripping watch. His portrayal of David’s emotional unraveling as both his illness and revelations about his wife’s death get the better of him. At times David is elusive and thuggish, while at others he is heartbreakingly vulnerable, and relentlessly downtrodden. Thorvaldsson gives us a man who truly has nothing left to lose, and his demeanour reflects this. The supporting cast is equally fascinating, with each character nuanced and multi-dimensional thanks to writers Florencio and Maria Nefeli Zygopoulou. Doorman Eno (Patrick Regis) is a compelling watch, and his motivations starkly emphatic, as he tips off David with the whereabouts of celebrities in order to gain extra money for a visa for his pregnant girlfriend to come to England. Meanwhile, David’s girlfriend-come-business associate Suzie (Hilda Péter) struggles to manage her professional and personal relationships, all the while negotiating the complex morality of selling sex. Out of all the characters, Suzie lacks clarity the most, as at some points it seems as though she wants to escort, and at others she condones it. Her relationship with David is unclear, too, and as a result it’s difficult to read her through the course of the film. Hers is one of the secondary plots which is left unfinished at the climax of the movie.
David’s tumultuous relationship with his boss Olly is at the heart of the film, and this is ultimately the climax, leading to a somewhat poetically symmetrical consequence for Olly. He’s a bad guy, though that’s not always clear, and he really does not have any redeeming qualities: he’s motivated by money, he cheats, he neglects his wife and young daughter in favour of models and nightclubs. As there’s nothing to like about him, it’s difficult to get on board with his motivations when it’s necessary for the audience to do so.
London is the dark concrete jungle within which this drama unfolds, although unlike other films of cinematic genres and themes, it places a stark contrast between the glitzy Kensington nightclubs and eateries of the West End, with some of the most deprived areas of the capital. London becomes a beast in its own right and contributes generously to the gritty, grimey tone of Chasing Robert Barker. Sometimes amateurish-feeling cinematography and sound mixing, a small indicator of the film’s indie-sized budget, will stop Chasing Robert Barker from being an instant love for many viewers. Despite this, its quiet determination and draw is a fascinating and well-executed work of visual storytelling. The message of the film is a warning against over-saturation, gluttony and greed. Contextually, there are intelligent references to the downfall of tabloid journalism in the UK of late, with nods to the phone hacking scandal, the Leveson Enquiry, the destruction of Murdoch’s News of the World and more.
Blooming with just-below-the-surface violence and dark nuances, Chasing Robert Barker is gritty and unforgiving, leaving audiences with a bitter after taste. Using the most nightmarish qualities of London, the film is firmly rooted in realism, depicting the destruction of a man’s whole world in just a few short days. It seems to tell us that it could happen to any of us, if we’re not careful.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Kirsty Capes – Follow me on Twitter
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