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Don't Cross That Threshold
on December 6, 2003
What will happen when three affluent and professional friends and flatmates,a journalist,a doctor and a chartered accountant,find a corpse and a suitcase full of money? What choices will confront these educated and intelligent people and what are the consequences of their choice?
This is the story of Shallow Grave, the debut long feature of Brit Danny Boyle, and the first of his many collaborations with writer Dr John Hodge (MD not PHD).
More specifically,it is the story of two men,Ewan McGregor and Chris Eccleston and a woman, Kerry Fox who share a flat and a friendship that is obviously harmonious.Deciding to let a fourth room in their large flat,they begin to interview likely candidates with an air of haughty antagonism and playful sarcasm,until Mr Keith Allen himself drops by, mysterious but with ready cash and moves in.
Yet their new roommate's life is quite short, and he is discovered dead, but with a lot of cash. The money of a man who came out of nowhere, had no visitors and apparently will not be missed too soon, is quite tempting to keep. This is the dilemma the three friends faced in a very tense moment that pierced right through their conscience.
In John Boorman's Excalibur, Merlin the magician, granting the wish of a knight to change his appearance into another for carnal reasons,says in a memorable quote ' The future has taken root in the present'.
This is exactly what happened in Shallow Grave the very second our heroes decided to keep the money, depose of the body (in parts, a task that traumatized them), and live happily ever after.So they thought!
How wrong they were, for crossing the threshold of their moral and ethical obligations towards their dead roommate,will forever change their lives and they will pay dearly for it.
Greed will inevitably be the driving force that will govern their lives and relationship from then on,pull them apart,reduce them from highly respectable members of the society to frightened and paranoid ,even pathetic creatures, that live mainly by their instincts.
Of course no one is truly mysterious and although we really do not know who really was the character of Keith Allen and where is the source of that money, we do get an idea that his line of work did not involve paying taxes, and two of his not so nice chums soon enough,looking desperately for him, find their way to the flat, obviously not thinking of tea and scones.But they are murdered and deposed of.
These bodies soon resurface (no crime is perfect as the cliche goes)and this will wet the appetite of the subtley clever police, with the chief inspector and his detective (played by John Hodge himself) who rightly suspect foul play.
All this lead to a tragic end, that was in a way inevitable the moment the lure of cash (even for people who really do not need it) turned into a possessive demon. It is a frightening thought of course, because no matter how much we claim superior moral ground and are indignant, we can never anticipate the choice we will make, facing a similar situation.
This makes Shallow Grave a little gem of a movie, a product of talented group of friends (and not of the studio machine)who contributed their effort to give us a film that is quite original and with a message that is as old but poignant as life itself. It is about the consequence of our choices, and the path it will take us once we cross that threshold.