Movie Review – Shallow Grave (1994)

Director: Danny Boyle

Stars: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox

Three flatmates advertise for a new roommate, but are uninspired by all the applicants. One appears better than the others, so they invite him to stay. However, he dies soon after joining the flat and leaves behind a case filled with cash. The three of them have to decide what to do with the money but their personalities clash as some of them are more prone to taking a risk, while another wants to play it safe. Dealing with paranoia, this money affects their relationship and has lasting consequences for all of them.

Ewan McGregor and Christopher Eccleston have obviously gone onto bigger and better things while Kerry Fox seems to have pursued a different direction. Yet all three of them have good chemistry and good presence during the film, and the way their personalities interact is interesting. McGregor’s character is mischievous and carefree, always ready with a quip and a joke. Eccleston’s is far more straitlaced and analytical, so he is the one who preaches caution when the find the money. Fox lies somewhere in the middle, and seems to be influenced by whichever character she’s with the most, although she does seem to have her own agenda towards the end of the film.

The central theme of how a lot of money can cause friction between a group of friends isn’t a unique one, and here the way they come into the money isn’t the focus of the film. There are people who are coming after the money as well, and from this comes a source of tension, yet there’s not much attention paid to it in the script. The focus is really on the characters. You’ll notice that in the above paragraph I mentioned the names of the actors but not of the characters, and to me it’s always a bad sign when you don’t remember any of the characters’ names.

I don’t mind flawed characters in movies, but I found these ones annoying. If I knew them in real life I wouldn’t enjoy spending any time with them. They’re impish but not in an endearing way, and continually flaunt social convention in the name of amusing themselves. As such they never felt like real people and despite the dramatic circumstances they find themselves in, the film never elicited any feelings of empathy from me. I simply didn’t care about these characters and when that doesn’t happen the whole core of the film falls apart.

I think some people will like this, because it is a little quirky and others may not have the same problems with the characters as I do. Others may find some value in the fact that it’s an early film by Danny Boyle, but for me it didn’t work. There are some fun moments but ultimately I just didn’t care enough. The plot was secondary so it wasn’t developed as well as it could have been, and many of the details were murky, and the characters didn’t interest me so I’m sure other people will like it but I did not.

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