Down In The Valley

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/05/2006

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Engaging, offbeat and frequently intense drama with a sharply written script and superb performances from both Norton and Wood.

What's it all about?
Set on the upper edge of the San Fernando Valley (a sprawling mix of horse ranches and freeways), Down In The Valley stars Evan Rachel Wood as 17 year old Tobe, who begins a relationship with charming drifter Harlan (Ed Norton), partly as a way to rebel against her strict father, corrections officer Wade (David Morse).

As Harlan grows closer to both Tobe and her little brother Lonnie (Rory Culkin), Wade becomes increasingly concerned. But is Harlan really the naïve, charming niceguy he makes out?

The Good
It's easy to see what attracted Ed Norton to the project, because Harlan is a terrific part and Norton plays him brilliantly. We're painfully aware that Harlan isn't everything he seems but we're never quite sure which way he's going to jump, which makes for some incredibly tense scenes.

At times Norton's performance risks overshadowing the film, but fortunately Wood gives as good as she gets and demonstrates why she's currently one of Hollywood's hottest young actresses. There's also strong support from Rory Culkin (easily the most talented of the Culkins) and the always reliable David Morse.

The Great
Writer-director David Jacobson keeps a tight rein on the material, maintaining a constant level of tension through the performances. The location work is extremely impressive, allowing Jacobson to explore Western themes in a modern day setting. There's also a surprising amount of humour in the film, as well as some memorable scenes, such as a sequence set in a ghost town film set.

Worth seeing?
In short, this is an enjoyable, smartly directed and ultimately moving drama with a superb central performance from Norton. Recommended.

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Down In The Valley
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Content updated: 26/01/2020 22:13

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