Jon Sanders’ Late September features a group of friends in the most tedious and also the most interesting of situations; that of getting older and the successful or rather less successful maintenance of long-term relationships. Clearly it’s a very well-covered subject in some ways, but Late September manages to stand out from the majority of these films for one big reason: the dialogue is improvised by the actors.
Gilly (Anna Mottram) and Ken (Richard Vanstone) have been married for almost 40 years and we meet them on the day of Ken’s 65th birthday party in Kent, to which only their closest friends have been invited. It becomes clear early on that Gilly and Ken’s relationship has definitely seen better days as they find the energy to argue about paraffin lamps before they’ve even had their first cup of coffee. The day wears on with a few other little spats and their friends arriving as some sort of punctuation to their rows but it’s only when everyone has imbibed more than their fair share of the vino collapso that things really heat up.
It would be easy to compare the film to any of Mike Leigh’s telling portrayals of difficulties with life, family and friends but Late September has an extra little quality. The awkward exchanges between the couple and their friends really draw your attention to your own relationships and conversations. It makes you wonder if you do sound that whiny or unsure when you’re having an irrational moment or try to discuss a sensitive subject with a friend. The highlight in the acting stakes is most definitely Ken, lightening the mood with his acerbic wit. There is also some very striking cinematography.
Although they generally added to Late September, the long lingering shots did cut into the momentum of the story at times. This film could be really, horribly depressing but for the occasional burst of juicy humour.
If you are an avid people-watcher or an enjoyer of the absurdities of life then you will get a certain amount of pleasure in watching this group of friends quietly but surely implode.