Steve (Jeremy Swift), Keith (Karl Theobald), Gordon (Richard Lumsden) and Julian (Ned Dennehy) have been friends since school. Now in their mid-40’s they reunite to take on the challenge of walking the coast to coast route across the United Kingdom. Yet, this journey brings more than just bad weather and aching feet. The foursome walk directly into their mid-life crises as they try to juggle friendship and family life along with more personal matters.
Walking the coast to coast footpath isn’t our idea of catching up with old school chums; we’d rather sit in a pub and chat over several pints of strong lager. Also spending a week together, in close confines, can sometimes go dreadfully wrong. Downhill plays on those proponents and others throughout its run time.
Bristling with British humour that speaks to everyone, the film is also peppered with heartbreakingly sad moments that hit a real emotional nerve. There is something very Nuts In May about Downhill, with its quirky sensibility and its bitter-sweet beauty.
The walking parts are highly enjoyable and rather funny as it feels we wander the lands with them. Yet it’s the downtime moments where the film truly walks into its own. We learn more about each of the lads dynamic and make-up, also what has made them click as friends for all these years.
The four guys in the lead roles are all excellent. Each one of them brings something unique to proceedings. It’s difficult to pick problems with any of them. Their individual faults and issues are all given the time of day to be aired within the group, and whilst some are more interesting that others, it feels like these guys are all going through the mid-life crisis with tribulations that they won’t speak to anyone about until it’s far too late. Fortunately when it does come out the others are there to lend support and advice. Each emotional stride that these guys take we are right there with them…. hoping they overcome life’s problems, and the weather.
The movie is filmed in a mockumentary style, supposedly all done via Steve’s son doing the filming but not actually being seen on the trip. It’s a fun use of the home movie (found footage?) motif for a comedy/drama that works very well. We must also lavish praise on the cinematography as it is absolutely stunning. Perfectly capturing the lavish rolling hills of England’s green and pleasant lands, coupled with intricate shots of tiny villages and small low ceiling, wooden beamed pubs – there is more than enough for the eyes to feast on.
Downhill casts a look at the male mid-life crisis from a very middle class British angle, yet it doesn’t have airs and graces. Instead we are caught up in an emotional tale of four men wanting to do the best they can for their families, yet each have their own pit falls. It’s a beautiful tale of life, love and friendship.