Hello Carter (2013)

Review first published by Grolsch FilmWorks

A man in a suit is rolled into a foetal ball on the cold bitumen of a London street. This is Carter (Charlie Cox), and a rewind to 18 and a half hours earlier reveals how he came to be in this predicament.

In fact the morning before this long dark night of the soul, Carter was lying just as pathetically on a slowly deflating mattress on the living room floor of his brother Eliott’s apartment. Our downsized, homeless hero – a lost thirtysomething milquetoast – decides that today he is going to pick himself up, find a new job, and get back in touch with his beloved American ex-girlfriend Kelly, despite no longer having her address or phone number. As luck would have it, Carter runs into Kelly’s brother, the aggressive has-been film star Aaron (Paul Schneider), and is grudgingly promised Kelly’s contact details in exchange for running a mysterious errand across town. After a series of misunderstandings, Carter finds himself on the run with a stranger’s baby, and only Aaron and office worker Jenny (Jodie Whittaker) for company – but once Carter hits rock bottom, he will be reborn as the man with a plan.

In other words, Hello Carter is a comedy caper. As it breezes through Central London locations, it skips from one improbable scenario to the next, unifying its actions to a single, eventful day full of coincidences and criss-crossing destinies, and anchoring everything to a whimsical sense of the absurd. Adapted from a 2011 short film of the same name, Hello Carter is the feature debut of Anthony Wilcox, who has served as assistant director on films as varied as The End Of The Affair (1999), Layer Cake(2004), Hot Fuzz (2007)  and W.E. (2011). Marrying romantic comedy to rites of passage, it is an amiable if inconsequential affair whose central complication is easily resolved with just a phone call – although there is some cloak(room) and dagger, and even an unnecessary car chase of sorts, thrown in for good measure.

Treading very lightly over a modern Britain marked by recession and alienation, Hello Carter is such a fluffy confection that its funniest bits are also its most incidental – like the strange man in a cagoule who announces his arrival at a toilet cubicle with the surreal words, “OK, right – let’s do this!” Indeed, the whole film plays like the understated English counterpart to one of Aaron’s pumped-up actioners. For here violence and guns have no place, everything is a bit shit, but in a make-do, mustn’t-grumble sort of way, the guy still gets the girl and comes out a winner – albeit a winner of decidedly low ambition. The mundanity – and silliness – of the story are essential to its charm, but also make it undeniably forgettable.

Anton Bitel