Ed (Edward Hogg) is a stand-up comedian living in London, struggling to take his day job seriously, and struggling even harder to get audiences to take his comedy seriously. Ed lives with the beautiful Elisa (Elisa Lasowski) with whom he shares a platonic love and is starting to date fellow comic Nathan (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). Ed finds himself struggling to keep either of his two jobs or relationships afloat as he treads water in the nation’s capital. Shot in an improvised fashion by director Tom Shkolnik The Comedian is not driven by plot but by its characters and is all the better for it.
Considering this is a debut film for Shkolnik The Comedian is a remarkable statement and admirable achievement. Shot with an ethos resembling the Dogme 95 Manifesto The Comedian had no script but instead relied on its cast and crew to improvise dialogue and story as the film was shot only in real locations surrounded by real Londoners and the actors all playing versions of themselves with just one take to get each scene right. The result is a film without any discernible structure which somehow manages to show a side to life at the beginnings of adulthood that is rarely captured on camera.
Everything about The Comedian felt painfully real and relatable. This is not a story about boy meets girl or boy meets boy but a story about a man lost in the big city trying to figure out if he is happy with his life or not. You do not have to be a struggling gay comedian to see a lot of yourself in Ed, indeed I am not and I did. Anyone who has ever travelled on a night bus and not had the quiet journey they had hoped for, found themselves on a random London street in the early hours of the morning arguing with someone they love, or simply felt incredibly lonely in a large city will find this film authentic.
Shot in a spontaneous fashion The Comedian has every excuse not to look any good but somehow eschews the low-fi aesthetic of many low budget films and comes out looking fantastic. This is particularly impressive considering the amount of night-time shooting with natural light which looks deep and textured rather than the all too familiar grainy and under-lit. Compare this with my recent Beat Girl trauma and the contrast is remarkable. When you don’t have a huge budget it is all the more important to focus on producing amazing images and sound as the merest whiff of amateur film-making can pull the audience out of a film and into the neighbouring screen to watch Iron Man 3 instead.
This plot-less style of film is not for everyone and I did find the ending’s lack of finality a little frustrating but overall The Comedian really spoke to me. The visuals are dark and enveloping and the acting is so natural as to be unnoticeable allowing the film to completely pull me in for its short running time. For those who cannot relate The Comedian may come across as dull navel-gazing but for me I was gazing at my own navel and found it to be beautifully messy.