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  Late Night Shopping Busy Doing Nothing
Year: 2001
Director: Saul Metzstein
Stars: Luke de Woolfson, James Lance, Kate Ashfield, Enzo Cilenti, Heike Makatsch, Shauna MacDonald, Sienna Guillory, Laurie Ventry, Bobby Finn, Clare Harman, Nigel Buckland, Lesley Harcourt
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Four twentysomethings who work late shifts meet up every night at a Glasgow coffee bar to pass the time until their break is over. Sean (Luke de Woolfson) is a hospital porter who hasn't seen his girlfriend in weeks, despite sharing a flat with her - they just never seem to meet up, Vincent (James Lance) stacks shelves in a supermarket, and is a serial womaniser, Jody (Kate Ashfield) works at an electronics factory and Lenny (Enzo Cilenti) has a job in a call centre. Their lives are going nowhere, but they can't face up to this fact until chance encounters with others cause them to see things in a different light - daylight, for a start.

Written by Jack Lothian, Late Night Shopping was a low budget romantic comedy drama that on the surface wasn't about anything much, and was noticeably contrived in its plotting. It takes its landscape as a limbo between the hours when most people are up and about, a land of eternal darkness lit only by street lights and fluorescent lights where the four protagonists meet up to talk about nothing in particular to pass the time. Dotted around this existence are dead of night train services, vending machines, and, of course, a never ending supply of coffee to keep them awake through the monotony.

Hardly any of the cast have Scottish accents, making the story seem as if it's set in an anonymous city rather than a cosmopolitan one. The characters are well drawn, with Sean's problems gradually becoming the focus when his girlfriend troubles snag the attention of his three friends. He examines his flat carefully to check for signs that she has been there: the pillow, the towel, the soap in the bathroom (has it got smaller?), but there are complications when he meets a girl at work who is visiting her comatose boyfriend, and she appears interested in him. So interested that they get amorous while in the same room as the hapless coma victim.

Vincent doesn't like to think about his meaningless relationships too much, cutting them off before they get too serious, but a one night stand with a Dutch girl makes him reassess his priorities, especially when he finds out who she really is, and when one of his colleagues collapses this shallow man undergoes a crisis. Lenny is infatuated with a girl at work, but has pretended to be a businessman so he can phone her up and talk to her instead of meeting her face to face. And Jody? Well, she wants to get a life when she realises that the best thing about her nights is hanging out at the coffee bar.

While never hilarious, the film is consistently amusing thanks to the engaging actors and smart lines ("Have you ever seen Cyrano de Bergerac?" "No" or "When you go to see the Rolling Stones you expect to hear the greatest hits"). There's also the benefit of good detail, such as the car radio that's stuck on an eighties easy listening station, or the not entirely serious hang ups the characters endure (like porno reactions). The last act, which sees the foursome venturing, blinking, into the sunlight to travel to an off-season seaside resort for a showdown with Sean's girlfriend tends to drag a little, but the uncertain yet happy ending makes up for it. Maybe Late Night Shopping is as inconsequential as the friends' lives, and you get the impression not much will change for them, but they're good company. Music by Alex Heffes.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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