The Kiwi film Older has been popping in and out of my industry periphery over the past few years. Given the size of the NZ film and TV industry, the film’s progress has often popped up on my Facebook feed and a few people I either know or know of have been involved in it in some capacity. So I was delighted to finally have the opportunity to sit down and watch it.
Older was filmed back in 2013, so is definitely a long labour of love for writer/director/actor Guy Pigden. The film was made on a really modest budget (a microbudget) with a combination of funds from a successful Indiegogo campaign and no doubt the pockets of some of the film’s hardworking creatives themselves. The sheer feat of creating a film on a small budget and releasing it needs to be commended here – it is a gruelling industry and very unforgiving and many lesser filmmakers would have given up somewhere along the 7 year journey.
In terms of story, Older doesn’t really provide anything overly unique or original. The story follows burnt out filmmaker Alex (Guy Pigden) as he navigates his late 20s, his career failures, his relationship failures and his general lack of inspiration to be anything more than a bit of a nothing. While his friends slowly “perish” into marriage and parenthood, Alex lives at home with mum and dad, drinks too much and generally feels pretty tragically sorry for himself.
Think of Older as a mix of high budget genre heavyweights like About A Boy mixed with hints of the story from Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up (if it was a Kiwi drama rather than an American stoner comedy). As such, Older doesn’t tell an overly new story. And whilst it does offer some interesting and well-worded ideas and reflections on life and love, at times the dialogue can feel quite forced and more like something the writer thought sounded good on paper but didn’t necessarily translate well to actual believable conversation.
This is the unfortunate risk a filmmaker takes when they decide to write/direct AND act in a film – sometimes it lacks a much needed outside eye, and this is definitely something that I feel holds Older back in certain moments. However, never enough to make the film underwhelming or disappointing by any stretch of the imagination.
In terms of the performances, they are all pretty decent. There isn’t a stand out performance but there aren’t really any weak spots either. Everyone does a good job with their roles. However I must comment on the incredible chemistry between lead Alex and love interest Jenny (Leisha Ward Knox) – it is absolutely convincing and endearing and because so much of the film relies on the audience buying into this relationship, it is a fantastic result for these two actors.
I feel that Pigden may have been better suited having someone else take on the role of Alex, because although the character is clearly close to his heart, I sometimes feel like he wasn’t actually the perfect casting choice for the role. Perhaps having the opportunity to direct from offscreen may have given him the chance to guide an even stronger performance from another actor. Though, his performance is engaging enough throughout.
Where Older really shines, in fact it excels, is in its direction. Here Pigden really is in his element and he certainly knows exactly what he is doing when it comes to direction. Every single shot is gorgeously composed, every frame incredibly well thought out, every piece of lighting expertly placed. Older is a stunning example of successful direction, and the cinematography from Adam St John means that every aspect of Pigden’s vision as a director is brought to life with impressive visual perfection. Editing the film himself, Pigden proves again that his ability to control the visual storytelling elements of the film are where he is most at home.
Overall Older is a solid film and it deserves an audience. Whilst the story may have been told before and the dialogue is at times formulaic, it is an incredible example of what can be achieved when passion and commitment is combined with talented and creative direction and well paced editing. I genuinely look forward to seeing what Guy Pigden comes up with next.
Check it out on Amazon Prime, Google Play and Tubi today!
– Ashton Brown