40-year-old film film-maker Richard Barlow (Antony Hickling) walks off the set for his latest film after suffering an anxiety attack. An unpleasant altercation leads him into a local bar and begins a sleepless and dream-like night where Richard moves from one experience to the next, meeting familiar faces and complete strangers.
‘Down in Paris’ is the latest film from Anthony Hickling, a South African-born writer and director with an English mother and an Indian father. He moved to England with his family at a young age and since 2018 he has been a French citizen. That background helps to inform the character he plays here as Hickling moves easily between English and French depending on what is required from the scene. Early on he meets a flirty woman in a bar, who it turns out is English, and despite being initially dismissive of her, Richard gives in and chats with her over a drink.
That turns out to be one of many conversations that take place over the course of the film as Richard searches for meaning and answers. It’s clear he has pent up anger from a semi-recent break-up but as the film progresses, it transpires that he may be dealing with a lot more than that. If you’re a fan of a clear narrative structure, ‘Down in Paris’ isn’t going to be for you. In some ways it plays out like a stream of consciousness as Richard stumbles from one encounter to the next, with plenty of religious symbolism thrown into the mix. He goes from fighting with his ex in the street to chatting to a lonely woman to engaging in a threesome in a sex club with two complete strangers.
For me, the film doesn’t hang together in a satisfyingly cohesive way. The various encounters, while happening to the same man, feel oddly disconnected from each other and it was hard to determine any real through-line. Whilst I appreciate we’ve all had nights that start out one way then take several tangents, that doesn’t translate well to a film that requires you to invest and care. I really wanted to root for Richard, especially as Hickling is fun to watch on screen, but sadly I just couldn’t find any way to relate to or sympathise with him.
‘Down in Paris’ is meandering and it never really manages to find the point it’s trying to make. It’s a shame as Hickling is an engaging actor and film-maker but something about this film just doesn’t quite work. Perhaps it would be better as a stage play, or even delivered as a monologue, but it doesn’t feel like it naturally lends itself to film and I struggled to really care about what was going on.
Cast: Antony Hickling, Jean-Christophe Bouvet, Dominique Frot, Manuel Blanc Director: Anthony Hickling Writers: Raphaël Bouvet, Pierre Guiho, Anthony Hickling Certificate: 18 Duration: 102 mins Released by: TLA Releasing Release date: 28th March 2022 Buy ‘Down in Paris’ now