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Downhill (2014)

May. 30,2014
| Comedy

Four old school friends reunite to attempt the epic coast to coast walk, across the United Kingdom. As their journey unfolds, this comically incompatible foursome walk full tilt into their mid-life crises.


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A comedy revolving around four incompatible, now middle-aged, former school-friends on a rambling holiday as a break from their daily lives . Loosely structured around a daily itinerary, the story is filmed vis a documentary by Gordon's son who accompanies the four guys, which lends a TV-feel to the film & perhaps reduces its impact. It has a feel of a Mike Leigh film, a social comedy rooted in observation and character. The four men include Gordon, the responsible one, excellently played by Richard Lumsden, who tries to keep things together; Keith, a taciturn, repressed stone-mason; moody Steve, a teacher prone to childish tantrums himself (the mushroom/ his breakfast); and possibly the stand-out character, the charismatic but often dark, Julian, whose initial outrageousness actually hides a cruel streak verging on bullying. The film's strength lies in the way it shades the men's personalities by offering us glimpses into their backgrounds, which might explain how & why they have become the men they are.Initially, the men revert back to being the naughty schoolboys they once were, getting drunk and stealing a golf-buggy to get back to their lodgings, but are soon sheepishly contrite once sobered up and confronted with their misdeeds ('Grown men. You should know better.'says the buggy's owner).However, the film becomes more a character study bordering on the tragic-comic, a 'Sideways' by foot. The ramble becomes a metaphor for how the men's youthful optimism has given way to middle-aged disappointment & regret & how each has got side-tracked in some way in his life: family man Gordon, the de-facto 'Team Leader', now earns a precarious living as a local news camera-man when all he wanted to do was make nature documentaries; Steve followed his father by becoming a teacher despite hankerings to be an actor & now envies one of his former pupil's life as a glamorous actor in LA. Keith, in one of the key arcs of a free-wheeling film, makes a drunken revelation about his sexuality in the middle of a pub; and Julian is a Withnail type figure, hopelessly impractical (completely & inappropriately dressed for the ramble), charming and (acidly) funny as he talks to the camera, saying the things we dare not utter ourselves but finding ourselves tittering along to guiltily (Steve), but whose outrageous behaviour & fecklessness eventually alienate people as shown by the episode where he attracts and then repels a pair of young female ramblers. Each man desperately tries to keep himself together just as he is on the verge on breaking down. Drunken conversations literally become inconsequential rambles, though in Keith's case with a tragic undercurrent. Their lives unravel before our very eyes, as tempers fray due to personality clashes (the organised Gordon with his schedule with the chaotic, free-spirited Julian), the men bicker & end up fighting, but also rally around each other in moments of crisis.One of the strengths of the story is how the men's characters are illuminated by insights into their past, giving a shading of light and dark. They are not just accompanying each other but carry the baggage of the past, in particular father-figures: Gordon is responsible because he lost his own father at a young age and saw his family life disintegrate; Julian was bullied by his own father and now echoes his overbearing behaviour; and Steve has simply become his father.The film treads a fine line, like the men on a difficult path, between darkly observed comedy and an undercurrent of real bleakness. In one scene, Gordon, Keith & Steve take consolation in their families and children much to the scorn and withering contempt of the misanthropic Julian, who is childless ('Three masters of the unlived life'). The strength of Torben Betts' script is how he informs one scene with what follows. Just as Julian appears to have taken one step too far (rambling), we learn from Steve about Julian's own domineering father & his unhappy family. Keith's breakdown follows a phone call where he clearly cannot communicate with his wife.In the sense, the film has a Beckettian tone. Just as the two tramps must go on, so too do the men as they attempt to complete the journey. They have got so far that they might as well as finish(life itself). It is about going on and continuing even though one is self-aware enough to know that things aren't necessarily going to change for the better (Think of Miles drinking his vintage bottle of wine, the one he saved, eating a hamburger in 'Sideways). It is what it is.It's an interesting film, a British version of 'Sideways', mining similar territory, that of middle-aged male disappointment, which I could relate to as I am in that age demographic. Perhaps 'Sideways' explored the men's relationship in more depth because it concentrated on a couple of friends in particular & the emotional lives of the two men is balanced with some wonderful knockabout comedy (high and low). I also thought Keith's revelation perhaps didn't really explore the trauma he must have suffered with his conflicted sexuality (it comes as a bombshell in the plot), though it was amusing to watch how the others didn't make much of an issue as he did, which was perhaps the point.


This is in the road movie genre about a group of 4 middle aged men tackling a long distance walk in the North of England.It is set against the backdrop of the lovely scenery of the Coast to Coast walk. This is standard film fare - so far so good. I quite liked the sound of a fly on the wall documentary although I naturally incline towards the traditional. Unfortunately, the execution is very poor. It just seems like a badly made amateur video, containing characters who are not particularly well drawn and who are generally unlikeable.Like an amateurish version of "The Trip" with Coogan and Brydon, minus the jokes, and the charm that many find there.I wouldn't normally give a score as low as 2, and usually resent the sort of reviewer who would happily give such a score, but it really is that bad


Watched this having just completed the Coast to Coast. Entertaining in middle aged bloody sort of way. But anyone who has walked it would not believe that you could do it whilst very unfit, permanently drunk ( I used another word that was banned) and carrying no or very little pack. There is a fair but of artistic licence. Places turn up in the wrong order. The best bits of the walk are not there. Neither are the worst. Interaction with people who live en route is completely missing. Not enough pain to be realistic. But if you forget the reality of the walk and just look at the stupid nonsense that 50 year old blokes get into, it's close enough to reality to be amusing.


What a treat to watch a movie set in England and talking to the real concerns of 50 somethings. Having done many walks in groups, this film captures well the roles that people tend to play along the way. I saw myself in each of the four roles depicted. The unfolding story also showed a real understanding of how the dynamics change when you are doing a long distance walk. As an added bonus, anyone who has walked in the Lakes, Dales etc will have fun spotting the places they have been to.A really powerful part of the film for me was the relationship between Gordon and his son (the cameraman). The camera was the unseen centrepiece of the film and the audience were skilfully reminded every now and then that it was there; looking. The highlight of the film is when the Dad (who's financial affairs are falling apart) is challenged by the heavy drinking, loads o' money, 'free spirit' and the son intervenes on Dad's behalf.Interesting that the poor reviews given by some of the newspapers are from those of an age (30's) who it probably wouldn't speak to. A must see film for those over 45 or with parents of that age.