Down-on-his-luck Carter has recently become homeless, single and unemployed. Desperate to win back his ex-girlfriend, he goes off on an adventure throughout London to find her, picking up some odd helpers along the way.
A Hard Day’s Night by Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Remember Martin Scorsese’s 1985 film After Hours? Set in night-time New York, it starred Griffin Dunne as a mild-mannered clerk who agrees to visit a girl he met that evening at a coffee shop and gets caught up in a 24-hour manic and very funny chain of events in which he’s out of his depth and out of control. Director Anthony Wilcox is upfront that this was his inspiration. He’s turned it into a real London movie – a romcom or comedy drama, as he calls it – that reflects where and how we live now. There are cityscapes, the new brash chrome-and-glass London City skyline, the alienation of travelling on the tube, the streets of the inner suburbs and snippets of cheesy nightlife in crass bars in central London.
Stardust and Boardwalk Empire star Charlie Cox is Carter – we never know his Christian name. He’s a nice guy, maybe a bit depressed. As the film starts he’s lost his flat and is inconveniently sleeping in the kitchen of his brother Elliott’s flat (Christian Cooke) and cramping his style with his girlfriend. His brother palms him off to stay for a while with their aunt in Kensington (national treasure Judy Parfitt at her most outspoken eccentric). But, to add to his troubles, Carter’s also unemployed, so meanwhile, during the day, he has to attend a dire potential job interview with a patronising public schoolboy recruiter at a City recruitment agency (an excellent Henry Lloyd-Hughes, who absolutely nails his pompous twattishness). We’re not quite sure what kind of work Carter did or can do – and neither, it seems is he. After that, with no home to go to, Carter spends the whole night still incongruously wearing his interview suit.
Carter has wanted for months to get back together with his American ex-girlfriend – for him that’s the key to getting his life back together again – and the premise of the film is his quest to get her new phone number. On the tube he unexpectly sees her jet-lagged brother Aaron (American actor Paul Schneider, whom Wilcox met on Bright Star), who’s just landed in London on business – he’s a movie actor prone to bouts of extreme, almost sociopathic, behaviour. Whilst he’s not initially helpful, in fact the reverse, Carter perseveres and Aaron eventually agrees to give him his sister’s mobile number if he will deliver a letter to someone called Tara in South Kensington, who lives in one of those big Edwardian red-brick blocks of flats with myriad doorbells.
Carter’s attempts to fulfil his task lead to his accidentally kidnapping a baby and having to take it to a nightclub birthday party – unusual, as far as I know, and funny – and a possible romance with Jenny (Jodie Whitattaker, Attack the Block, Good Vibrations), the friendly down-to-earth secretary he met at the City agency. The set-up is intriguing and the first half hour really works, but once we find out what’s driving Aaron’s behaviour, the overnight shenanigans risk running out of comic steam, though Carter remains a sympathetic central character. Instead we get a rather heartwarming resolution as Aaron, the manic brother, gains the insight he was lacking into his relationship with Tara, Carter’s caring relationship with his brother and aunt is reinforced when the reverse might have been expected, and maybe, just maybe, there is the hope of a relationship developing with Jenny, who has shared his peripatetic night-time traumas – that’s if he can successfully connect with her on the phone next day when their overnight ordeal is over and everyone has gone back home.
Though it depends a little too much on coincidence to drive the plot, there’s something really nice and very appealing about Hello Carter. Something very – like fashionable restaurant menus – modern British. It’s not Four Weddings and a Funeral and it’s not My Brother The Devil, it’s somewhere in between. Softer centred than After Hours, it reflects that middle layer of striving, well-meaning, not terribly effectual or talented people making a living in present-day London, and in that British film tradition unexpectedly finding themselves in incongruous situations doing rather ridiculous things. Hello Carter’s first-time feature director Anthony Wilcox has had a career in the film industry for over a decade working on projects such as Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea, Hot Fuzz, Layer Cake, Bright Star, Pearl Harbour and WE. Hello Carter was developed from a short of the same title that starred Dominic Cooper. The film was executive produced by acclaimed director Michael Winterbottom and Andrew Eaton.
Hello Carter is released on 5th December 2014 in the UK