Live for the Moment Review
After a young woman, Rachel Jackson (Sasha Hermann), is knocked down and killed one summer night, it sends shivers through the local community. The driver of the car, David Fowler (Noel Fitzpatrick), is found to be drunk at the wheel and is promptly arrested and interrogated. The previously-respected local doctor breaks down and admits to being obsessed with Rachel and secretly in love with her. At the same time, young Miles Anderson (Nick Tatham) is trying to battle with his own demons. A sufferer of the condition Tourette's Syndrome since birth, Miles is plagued by nightmares, behavioural problems and uncontrollable twitching. Miles shared a close bond with Dr Fowler, who had helped him try and finally beat the condition through music: to their amazement, whenever Miles sang, the symptoms of his Tourette's vanished and he became a different person. However, with Dr Fowler under arrest and out of reach, Miles must struggle on without him. Meanwhile, Rachel's husband Sean (Matthew Watkin) swears vengeance against Dr Fowler...
In Live for the Moment, writer/director Richard Booth, shooting his first full-length film at the age of 15, demonstrates a great deal of ambition, dealing with an intriguing premise and showing a lot of promise, but unfortunately the film is ultimately a let down in many ways. A lot of this can be explained by the fact that it was made by an inexperienced crew for a micro-budget, but the problems lie deeper than this. Each time I watched the film, I was left with the nagging feeling that the two different narrative strands - Dr. Fowler's manslaughter incident and Miles dealing with his condition - would each have made an interesting short film on their own, but when both are run together in the context of a full-length movie the two vie for attention and their link seems tenuous at best.
One element that definitely works is the lack of black and white characters. Whereas on one hand Dr. Fowler is an irresponsible drunkard and drug addict who shows a callous disregard for human life, he shows genuine remorse for his actions. Likewise, the bereaved Sean comes across as a thug and his method of revenge is ill-judged and irresponsible, but it's hard not to sympathize with the man and understand what drove him to his actions. It's just a shame that, by the end of the film, none of the characters have attained any sense of closure at all, which may be true to life but makes for frustrating viewing.
Acting is spotty at best. I suspect that many of the players were bit-part actors in soap operas, and while Noel Fitzpatrick (Dr. Fowler) and Matthew Watkin (Sean) cope quite well with the often-clumsy dialogue, none of the others are really up to muster. In particular, David Lenson (DI Edwards) and Dominic Milne (Dr. Robinson) are painful to watch, conjuring up memories of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and making the material seem, I suspect, a lot worse than it actually is. The rest of the actors are just about acceptable, but none of them are particularly good, and none of them are anywhere near professional standards.
The weakest of the main characters is Miles, who is saddled with a serious disorder that causes people to misunderstand him and ostracize him. In a classic case of art imitating life, Miles is based on Nick Tatham, the first-time actor who plays him, who to be honest does his best with the material and gives a better performance than many of the supposedly professional actors in the film (although he is inconsistent). Interestingly enough, he also provides Miles' music himself, in another example of the similarities between the character and the actor. In situations like this, knowing that a character has been heavily inspired by an actual person, it becomes more difficult to criticize failings in the narrative, but I'm not convinced that the Tourette's Syndrome plot works, as it often seems to merely be a rather transparent attempt to raise awareness of the condition (in which case, a factual documentary might have worked better), although to Booth's credit he avoids ever becoming preachy.
As I said earlier, a lot of what causes Live for the Moment to fail is down to its budget and a lack of experience. A handful of shots show ambition and hint at better things to come from Booth in the future, but unfortunately much of the camerawork has a "home movies" feel to it, with long, untrimmed takes and an instability that betrays the handheld nature of much of the photography. Part of the problem is that the film alternates between feeling like a mockumentary and something with bigger aspirations: the use of music in some scenes feels really out of place given the "candid camera" feel of the other moments.
At a basic screenplay level the film also has its failings. Talky in the extreme, characters have an unfortunate habit of spending a huge amount of time sitting around and talking about how they are feeling, what they have done and what they are going to do. At best they seem like overly-long vignettes of real people talking about the mundane, while at worst they seem overly expositional pieces of clumsy writing. Often the dialogue seems to be forced into characters' mouths in ways that quite simply don't work, the worst example by far being the scene in the doctor's consulting room where Miles tells the replacement doctor about the effect that music has on his Tourette's Syndrome. The words come out of Miles' mouth don't suit either the character or the actor at all, and the end result is somewhat embarrassing. A similar problem emerges when Miles meets up with his best friend, Jack (played by director Booth). While these scenes seem a good deal more spontaneous, they are also quite clearly marked as expositional, with Jack seemingly appearing for no reason other than to make Miles talk about what is on his mind.
Live for the Moment is an intriguing film with some good ideas, and is clearly the result of a lot of ambition and dedication. However, it is obviously hampered by the director's lack of experience and as such is probably not going to interest most viewers. Given how little money it was made for, and Booth's relatively young age, the fact that the film was completed and released is to be applauded, but unsurprisingly it feels very much like a "first try" rather than a finished piece of work that can stand alongside the work of industry professionals.
The film is presented in its native non-anamorphic 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and the results are a bit of a mixed bag. While clarity is not really a problem, compression artefacts are often pronounced, and several shots have a jittery staccato feel to them. Many of the image's problems can no doubt be explain by budgetary constraints (areas of light becoming bleached out, fluctuations in brightness levels between shots, etc.).
Likewise, the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is let down mostly by problems with the way in which it has been recorded. Dips and clicks on the soundtrack, and severe fluctuations in the sound levels and background noise between each shot, serve as painful reminders that this is by no means a professionally-recorded piece of work. Dialogue is often difficult to make out, with the levels of the actors' voices and the background sound effects fluctuating quite a bit. Subtitles would have helped here, but unfortunately none are provided.
The only extra comes in the form of two screens of production notes, giving a brief overview of the project and how and when it was shot.
Ultimately, this was a difficult review for me to write because the amount of effort put into it is clear; however, bearing in mind the asking price is £8.50, it feels difficult to recommend Live for the Moment when so many more proficient movies can be had for the same amount of money or less. The film was clearly something of a learning experience and should be viewed as such, but as a finished piece of work costing as much as many mainstream budget releases, it simply doesn't satisfy. At a lower price the film might be worth seeking out, even if only to see what could be described as something of a bridge between home movies and the real thing, but don't expect a polished Hollywood blockbuster by any means.
You can order a copy of Live for the Moment from Final Cut Films' web site.