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Down in the Valley

Sometimes it's hard to find your way...  

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: Unknown 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Down in the Valley

Director: David Jacobson

Starring: Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood, David Morse, Rory Culkin

Edward Norton plays Harlan, a drifter in the modern day San Fernando Valley who deludingly believes he is a cowboy. He has no roots to any kind of stability and chooses a simple existence, living by the mythical values of the Western fantasy he plays out in his head. Unfortunately the mutual unwillingness to compromise means neither he nor his urban landscape can accept each other and he is left in an ugly no man’s land. Working as a gas station attendant he is picked up one day by impulsive and rebellious teenager Tobe (short for October), equally impulsive in accepting her offer to join her and friends on the beach. In her own no man’s land – both girl and woman, Tobe draws Harlan into a naïve and tender relationship but fully sexual. In the process Harlan befriends her younger almost autistic brother but fails to impress their father, a Vietnam veteran whose controlling aggressive behaviour is at odds with Harlan’s apparently free spirit.

The strength of Norton and Wood’s performances are what really make this film stand out. It is not coincidence Harlan is likened to an innocent Travis Bickle; the actor is oft compared with a young De Niro and it is his screen persona that adds such a great weight to the mood and atmosphere. And Wood is fast becoming a stupidly brilliant talent for our generation. Rory Culkin is also amazing as Tobe’s younger brother continuing to blitz his brother in the skills department. The cinematography of a bleached California really highlights the sense of foreboding and melancholy, as are the senses heightened by the soundtrack.

This is an achingly beautiful film, ‘tender as an open wound’ with a script perfectly furnishing the picture with lines that will resonate long after leaving the cinema. You absolutely have to watch this film.

Hannah Upton

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Autumn Term (35mm)