Film Review: Pickups

Jamie Thraves’ Pickups is an inventive comedy drama. Some elements work better than others, but the film is an enjoyable watch overall.

Actor Aiden Gillen is suffering from back ache and insomnia, and has just got a role as a serial killer. Whilst he concentrates on his new role, he also tries to reconnect with his teenage son. However, Aiden is concerned that someone is stalking him…

Written by Jamie Thraves and Aiden Gillen, and directed by Thraves, Pickups is an interesting concept. The film focuses on an actor, presumably modelled on Gillen but hopefully not entirely, and his latest role and how this blends into his private life. The film is meta without a hint of pretension; it is an accessible film which offers something a little different.

Pickups functions on a number of levels. On the one hand, it is about an actor balancing his professional and personal lives. Aiden  is having something of a mid-life crisis, which is conveyed through his relationship with his son and his level of comfort with himself. On the other hand, there is the role of the serial killer. Thraves blends the ‘real life’ scenes with ones from this fictional movie. As the opening sequence demonstrates, it is not entirely clear initially what the audience is watching. As the film progresses, this becomes more disturbing.

A third strand is the stalker premise. This works well to illustrate the protagonist’s mindset, even if it is not always captivating. One of the things that makes the film appealing is its blend of humour and darkness. The voiceover works really well, and provides a number of laughs. Gillen is amiable in the central role, but also convincing in playing the darker elements of the character.

At seventy-four minutes, Pickups is short and sweet. An interesting concept which is well executed for the most part.

Pickups is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

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