Don't Look Down ***
Starring: Manika Auxire, Geoffrey Couët, Simon Frenet, François Nambot, Lawrence Valin
Director: Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
Five strangers are at a house in the middle of the night. Linked by the man who owns the flat, they are all his lovers. Calm but tense, the four men and one woman have done something to him together, but as they try to distract themselves in the room next door, it’s clear that their task is still not over. As the night wears on, they try to distract themselves with getting to know each other, but can never forget what lies just on the other side of the wall.
What poses as a psychological thriller from Theo & Hugo directors Ducastel and Martineau unfortunately falls a little flat in its attempts to get pulses racing. The set-up is simple enough and establishes plenty of dramatic potential, but in strictly following the Aristotelian Unities of action, place and time we’re left watching five characters doing a lot of talking and very little action.
The characters are interesting. While the men reflect on the varying aspects of Gay Culture from which they met their lover and his subsequent manipulation of them, the presence of Veronika (Auxire) is a calming and warm influence on this group of disparate and desperate men. Together they find some form of surreal domesticity as they prepare a meal and dine together in his apartment as though this were just another evening in their lives. But as the rumbling threat of what lingers next door begins to chip away at their resolve, this display of normalcy feels jarring and gauche.
Sumptuously lit, the film is drenched in the stark neon of this stylish apartment. Narratively feeling like a piece of theatre over a film, the filmmakers compensate with luscious shots and exquisite cinematography, but none of this can distract from its slow pacing and inactivity syndrome. And the film is frustratingly coy in its withholding the most key piece of information you need to know about this story. Stylish it may be, but thrilling it is not.