4 Girls, 3 Days, 2 Cities, 1 Chance. I just finished watching Noel Clarke’s 126.96.36.199 and must say that I rather enjoyed the film. Firstly I was intrigued by the trailer which I believe I saw on the beginning of Cat Run about a month or so ago. Second, I am a die hard Doctor Who fan, and seeing that Noel Clarke; Mickey Smith from Series 1-4, who also wrote KidULTHOOD and AdULTHOOD; had written and co-directed increased my interest. Now, watching the trailer you may expect a non-stop, action thrill ride of a movie centering around four girls and a diamond heist….well, that’s not exactly what you get. The movie really is the story of 4 college girls all going through a rather hectic weekend, with the teasing story of a diamond heist being told on the outer edges of their stories. Actually the movie is really 4 stories, about 4 girls, and is rather cleaverly woven together.
The movie started off kind of slow, setting up a quick introduction to the four main characters who would soon split up, and we would get basically a 20 minute short focusing on each of them, that would eventually all link up. It was a little bit like how the individual stories from Pulp Fiction all had links that connected them together. Basically after a girl’s individual story from the weekend was told, the film would “rewind” back to one point where the four separated at the open of the film, and then restarted telling the story of the next girl.
The first girl we focus on is Shannon (Ophelia Lovibond), whose whole world seems to be crashing down around her. Her parents are splitting up, she’s been “sick” away from school for months, her friends don’t seem to want to talk to her, and somehow a mysterious woman in black thinks she has in her possession a Pringles can of stolen diamonds. At the end of her wits, she considers suicide, and then we rewind and split into the next girl’s story. We now see the story of Cassandra (Tamsin Egerton), a rich girl who rushes off to New York City for a piano audition with a prestigious teacher, as well as a chance to secretly meet up with her cyber boyfriend and find her love. Once she arrives, things are not what they seem, as she is thrust into what almost seems like an Internet stalker’s version of Cyreno D’Bergerac. We rewind and now see the story of Kerrys (Shanika Warren-Marland), an angry young lesbian whose half-brother seems to be doing something illegal underneath their parents noses. Finally we see Jo’s story (Emma Roberts). Jo seems to lead the most normal life of the group, and her story really does show how all the others fit together, and brings both an explanation and a conclusion to the diamond heist story that has been present all movie long.
If you consider that the diamond theft is the overall plot, the middle two stories really seemed like filler at times. Cassandra’s story was full of cameos (Kevin Smith and Mandy Patinkin among others) and more closely linked to Kerrys’ story than it did to the other two. It also seemed like it was forced in to give the change of scenery and promote the “2 cities” part of the tagline, as it could really have taken place in another end of London if they really wanted. Kerrys’ story linked back up to Cassandra’s but also played a pivotal part in concluding the heist and Jo’s story. In the end, all four stories were necessary, but the middle two could have been trimmed or paced a little quicker I felt.
As I said earlier, the film is full of cameos and I appreciated the acting links to Doctor Who, which just shows that when you are a newcomer, you do bring along people who you know and have worked with before. Quickly the Who links were Camille Coduri (Cassandra’s mother, and played Jackie Tyler on Doctor Who), Nicholas Briggs (who played Barry, the shop owner and voiced lots of Daleks in Doctor Who), Michelle Ryan (the mysterious lady in black who seems to have been behind the diamond heist, and played Lady Christina de Souza from the Doctor Who Planet of the Dead special) and of course Sean Pertwee (who played Shannon’s father, and is the son of the late Jon Pertwee who portrayed the Doctor from 1970-1974).
The acting was fairly strong throughout, but I must say that Emma Roberts really stood out to me as the best of the girls. It may be that her character was the most normal and easiest to relate to, but I do think she has a considerable amount of talent. I had enjoyed her previously in It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and look forward to seeing more of her in the future.
I’ve read a few other reviews and I can see why some people didn’t like the film. It’s a little to slow to be a thriller, it’s a little to edgy and dramatic to be a comedy, even though it does have many comic ingredients, so it suffers from the schizophrenic movie syndrome so many other overlooked films have, as it’s hard to put this film into a genre. Like I said, I did quite enjoy 188.8.131.52, but I can see where the non-chronological narrative which takes us back over the events several times, could be a bit confusing to some; but still quite worth the watch I would have to say.