It’s rare to see a film that starts off as a low key comedy, develops into a mystery, and finally morphs into a full on psychological horror-cum-drama; but with Trendy it appears that’s exactly what writer/director Louis Lagayette (in his first feature film no less) seems to have achieved.
The setup finds young teacher Richard (Lachlan Nieboer) thrust into a crummy East-End flat whilst holding down an inane teaching job at the local college. The usual mystery box plotline is thrown to us early on as criminal charges that Richard has only recently be cleared of are mentioned, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that what you’re in for here, at least initially, is a comedy in the vein of Richard Curtis’ early work (not least because Lachlan Nieboer is seemingly a dead ringer for Hugh Grant). Where the film goes from here is anything but predictable and, without spoiling anything, includes dog-fights, basement raves and more drug use than the recent Trainspotting sequel.
“it’s the sort of film that few have the courage to make these days”
It’s through Lagayette’s sure handed direction however, that Richard’s insane, horrifying and occasionally poignant journey of mayhem never feels too incredible, and even when the film veers into something resembling an East-End set Death-Wish it all feels remarkably in keeping with the director’s vision. The film is helped in no small part by Walter Mair’s brilliantly unsettling score and some lively supporting performances from Alan Ford (giving us the best cockney gangster since Get Carter), Haluk Bilginer and Alice Sanders. But it’s Nieboer who really stands out; his performance, although initially low-key, will inspire pity and shock in almost equal measure. Richard’s eventual isolation feels as real as Travis Bickle’s ever did and, in a subtle but affecting scene, we observe him in solitude watching cartoons in his flat as the New Year’s Eve celebrations kick-off in the city around him. Loneliness is a subject rarely explored in cinema given its uncomfortable nature but Trendy puts the issue under the spotlight with a remarkable degree of maturity.
Richard’s vulnerable state can only remain hidden for so long and the film eventually blossoms into something much darker. This change in tone will likely cause problems for many, but it’s almost to the film’s credit that it refuses to be pigeonholed into a specific genre. The revelations of Richard’s hidden past go a long way to explaining him but it’s a pity they’re maybe not as well articulated as they could have been, culminating in a final scene that feels perhaps a little unfocused.
Despite a few narrative flaws, Trendy succeeds in being highly entertaining and affecting. It’s hard to tell whether its dark subject matter and tonal shifts will garner significant mainstream audience, but it’s the sort of film that few have the courage to make these days; it’s relevant, funny and unsettling in the best possible way. And it deserves your attention all the more for it.
Image: Louis Lagayette