British comedy is a term that divides an audience right down the middle, as in general the genre is more hit and miss than a Man United coaching session. While iconic classics like Four Lions or Shaun of the Dead will always conjure up full belly laughs, it is also agonisingly difficult to forget flops such as Run for Your Wife, Sex Lives of the Potato Men or The Keith Lemon Movie. The tightrope of success and failure is therefore an intimidatingly thorny issue when releasing an authentically home-grown comedy, so we went to see what fate Downhill would face.
The sense of quintessential Englishness oozes out of the screen from the off as we are welcomed into the world of the four unique protagonists – Julian, Gordon, Steve and Keith – as they prepare for a coast-to-coast walk around England. The gang seem somewhat reminiscent of an older (much older) version of The Inbetweeners as each character takes a differing role, from Gordon (the reluctant) leader to Julian, the overconfident ladies’ man. The central rapport between the group is the key component of this comedy.
The picture centres around the English countryside as the men ramble across picturesque landscapes discussing past glories through pub-drunk eyes, falling their way through numerous tipsy mishaps. Comedically it is impossible not to fall for the charm of Downhill as every character is loveable in their own bumbling way. Ned Dennehy’s performance as Julian, in particular, stands out as he creates a man extremely reminiscent of Bernard Black from Black Books.
The beauty of the movie is its ability to transcend the limits of comedy and force its way into becoming a more poignant, moving piece of art. While the audience will initially happily join the rambling journey, what makes them stay is the pathos of the intricacies of the men’s lives, as Rouse manages to make them three-dimensional enough to care about but not so complex that you can’t laugh with and at them.
Downhill is released nationwide on 30th May 2014.
Watch the trailer for Downhill here: