BFI LFF: Pickups (2017)

Jamie Thraves’ collaboration with Aidan Gillen in Pickups is an intriguing, self-mocking look at fame and an actor’s life.

Cereal Killer

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

A droll voiceover introduces us to Aidan, an Irish actor, played by… Aidan Gillen. We see a lot of him, particularly in the filming of the naked clinch that’s the provocative first scene of the film. He’s recently divorced, he has a bad back and he’s a method actor who’s about to start preparing for his next role – a serial killer.

His face is well-known enough to make him public property (in one of the film’s deliberate confusions with real life, this is presumably because Gillen’s a star of Game of Thrones). Although the cab driver can’t quite place who Aidan is, and even then he won’t believe it because the person he’s thinking of is much younger than him, he’s recognised wherever he goes – unsurprisingly given that he’s conspicuously dressed in a black overcoat and dark glasses – and he has to behave as amenable selfie-fodder for his fans. Sometimes it’s cheering but time-consuming, but the downside is he has to negotiate a tightrope in refusing their demands, such as when they nab him scooping up his dog Echo’s kerbside poo, and sometimes he just can’t win, they’ll still tell people he’s a wanker. London fans who accost him in the street require even more diplomacy when they issue unexpectedly lurid sexual propositions followed by violent threats. In London, Aidan has intriguing encounters with two old friends.

Jamie Thrave’s film, with a screenplay he developed with Aidan Gillen, their third collaboration after The Low Down and Treacle Jr is a serio-comic look at an actor’s life and fame. It’s told in separate brief episodes that distance us from Aidan and disorientate as they blur the boundary between Aidan the person, the father trying to make contact with his unemotional teenage son, the lonely man in the empty house he used to live in, with Aidan, the actor, in his role as serial killer, preparing for and committing his next murder. It’s a somewhat chilling yet endearing personification of someone who’s not too caught up in being famous to still be able to not take themselves too seriously. Gillen’s self-mockery is appealing, the film is smoothly and professionally shot with something of the feeling of a music video, and it playfully flags up some fascinating conundrums about life in its brief (74 minutes) running time.

Pickups premiered at the 61st BFI London Film Festival 2017.
BFI London Film Festival 2017

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