Following is a 1998 film noir. It tells the story of a young man who follows strangers around the streets of London and is drawn into a criminal underworld when he fails to keep his distance. The film was made on a tiny budget, and features an unusual non-linear plot structure. It is the first feature film directed by Christopher Nolan, who went on to direct films such as Memento, Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight.
The young man is thrilled by Cobb's lifestyle, and begins to emulate him, cutting his hair short and wearing a dark suit. He attempts break-ins of his own, as Cobb encourages and guides him. The young man also begins to follow a blonde woman, who claims to be the girlfriend of a local gangster. He makes unsuccessful advances on her, and later breaks into her flat. Afterwards, the blonde confides that the gangster is blackmailing her with incriminating photographs. The young man breaks into the gangster's safe, but finds only modeling photos and cash. After confronting the blonde, he learns that she and Cobb have been manipulating him into mimicking Cobb's behavior to frame him for Cobb's recent murder charge.
The young man leaves to turn himself in to the police. The blonde reports her success to Cobb, who then reveals that he actually works for the gangster and has a plan of his own. In order to stop the blonde from blackmailing the gangster with evidence from a recent murder, Cobb kills her. Once the young man finishes his story to the police, he learns that he has been framed for the blonde's murder, which was Cobb's plan for him all along. As the young man is arrested, Cobb disappears into a crowd.
In a compelling story of this genre we are continually being asked to rethink our assessment of the relationship between the various characters, and I decided to structure my story in such a way as to emphasize the audience's incomplete understanding of each new scene as it is first presented.
Following was written and planned to be as inexpensive to produce as possible, but Nolan has described the production of Following as "extreme", even for a no-budget shoot. With no money, limited equipment, and a cast and crew who were all in full-time employment on weekdays, the shoot took a full year to complete. The production was so small that on many of the shoots, the cast, crew and their equipment could travel to their locations in a single London taxi.
To conserve expensive filmstock, every scene in the film was rehearsed extensively to ensure that the first or second take could be used in the final edit. For the most part, Nolan filmed using no professional film lighting equipment, employing only available light. He also used the homes and flats of his friends and family as locations.
The Los Angeles Times was particularly impressed with the film, saying that it was a "taut and ingenious neo-noir" and that "as a psychological mystery it plays persuasively if not profoundly. Nolan relishes the sheer nastiness he keeps stirred up, unabated for 70 minutes." TV Guide called it "short, sharp and tough as nails", praising its fast-paced storytelling and 'tricky, triple-tiered flashback structure'. Reel.com was similarly impressed with the unusual narrative style, saying that "far from gimmicky [...] the lack of conventional narrative structure contributes much to the growing suspense and artfully mimics Bill's sense of dislocation."
However, Time Out London felt that the film's climax was uninspired, saying that "the generic pay off is a little disappointing after the edgy, character based scenes of exposition." Empire magazine questioned the skill of the film's inexperienced cast, saying that they "lack the dramatic ballast to compensate for [Nolan's] erratic plot elisions"
On the Young Man's apartment door is the classic 'Batman' symbol. Somewhat prophetically, Christopher Nolan went on to direct both 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight.'