Shallow Grave: Danny Boyle’s First Testament

The man behind Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, and 28 Days Later surely has to start from somewhere. Danny Boyle’s very own 1994-released Shallow Grave is his first ever feature film, starring Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who, Thor: The Dark World), Ewan McGregor (Star Wars prequel trilogy, Moulin Rouge), and Kerry Fox (Bright Star), who were relatively unknown actors then, in one of their first lead roles. This film will later be known as the first paving stone for Danny Boyle and actors Eccleston and McGregor.

In Shallow Grave, three friends (Fox, Eccleston, McGregor) accepts a new flatmate (Keith Allen) in their flat, and the next day, found him dead. With a suitcase full of money. They decided to keep the money, yet guilt, betrayal, and fear follows afterwards, and the three friends went to the verge of breaking their own friendship.

The film’s art direction centralizes in the surreal and bizarre, like what we will find in Danny Boyle’s later works. For example, this freaky baby. This example could possibly ring a bell for Boyle’s next work, also wrapped in his bizarre artistic style….

Wow. Much surreal.

When we think of it, the bizarre atmosphere of this film stretches over from the death of the roommate until the climax of the plot. The plot itself deals with betrayal and insanity, with spices of judgement. The plot doesn’t seem to dig too much, it only touches the surface of the problem. You really wanted something much more; you’re not really satisfied with the resolution.

There are some things that are wonderful in this film that made me acknowledge its brilliance. The performances of the cast were out of this world. Eccleston could mark his character’s state of mind right in the spot; Fox  maximizes her character’s emotions to the utmost level; and McGregor could really make an asshole come alive. The artistic direction was another thing I like from this film. It keeps all these cheery colours, and at the same time, retaining the plot’s dark themes.

Christopher Eccleston in a colorful frame

Danny Boyle’s first work sure isn’t his best, but it serves as a first step to all his later brilliant works. This is his first testament: an intriguing story, out-of-this-world performances, yet it is still a shallow grave.


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