voices of ordinary madness

Review by Kumari Tilakawardane
The Cub Magazine, 2 October 2013



Xiaolu Guo’s latest film could be described as hard-hitting realism, but its comedic tone doesn’t quite seem to fit that bill. It could be described as documentary, although the Andy Warhol-esque false newsreader doesn’t suit that description either. This transient, almost indefinable nature suits the subject of Late at Night down to a tee: ordinary Londoners.

The film opens with a quotation from Samuel Beckett “You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.” This is basically the premise of Guo’s film, as she treks London’s east end (with the occasional jaunt to the financial district or even Glasgow) interviewing what can only be described as an eclectic mix of ordinary heroes. We hear from a financial analyst, a fishmonger, a former con-artist and a preacher among a host of others. This mix of views and beliefs lends Guo’s film a truly gritty, realistic feel and is one of the most honest and unashamedly simple films about London out there.

We all know of this great city as one of the most diverse places in the world, and this film essay presents a group of Londoners from across the globe and from all social spectrums, all commenting on our society and the iron grip of capitalism. It’s both funny and deeply moving, as Guo presents us with the ugly truth – people are really truly struggling to get by. The innovative blending of documentary-style interview footage, a pulsing soundtrack, neon historical quotes and faux-news footage makes Late at Night a great watch on so many levels.

This is a must-see for anyone wanting to see the real London, the working class London and just how capitalism and the recession is affecting normal people. This is a film hard to pin down to a genre. It’s a documentary with elements of fiction; at times it’s laugh-out-loud funny and yet incredibly sad; it’s undeniably real and yet somehow seems almost other-worldly. Gou has captured the essence of working-class London and made a beautiful film-essay that comments on and shows us the problems with the current economic system.



Kumari Tilakawardane




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