Down in the Valley (film)

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Down in the Valley
Directed by David Jacobson
Produced by David Jacobson
Stavros Merjos
Bill Migliore
Edward Norton
Adam Rosenfelt
Holly Wiersma
Written by David Jacobson
Starring Edward Norton
Evan Rachel Wood
David Morse
Rory Culkin
Music by Peter Salett
Edited by David Jacobson
Lynzee Klingman
Edward Harrison (pseud. of Edward Norton)
Distributed by ThinkFilm
Release dates
  • May 13, 2005 (2005-05-13) (Cannes Film Festival)
  • May 5, 2006 (2006-05-05) (United States)
Running time
125 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $568,932

Down in the Valley is a 2005 film starring Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood, David Morse and Rory Culkin. The film made its debut in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival[1] on May 13, and made its limited theatrical release in North America in May 5, 2006.


Set in modern-day San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, the film begins with rebellious teenager October "Tobe" (Wood), going for a walk with her younger brother, Lonnie (Culkin). The next day, Tobe goes to the beach with friends and when they stop for gasoline they are assisted by Harlan (Norton), a young man, though much older than Tobe - who affects a folksy, cowboy style. Tobe invites much-older Harlan to the beach. He accepts, which results in him losing his job. While at the beach, they share a passionate kiss. Afterwards, Tobe goes to his house and engages in sexual activities with Harlan. He then decides to take her on a real date which involves him and Tobe taking Lonnie to get something to eat. Later on that night they go on their "real" date dancing then later meeting up with Tobe's friends for another party. That is when he takes drugs under the influence of Tobe. She returns home the next day; as she has returned home long after she was expected, Wade, her father, becomes enraged and she retreats to her room. He attempts to talk with her, and when she refuses to open the door, he pounds on the door and leaves visible damage.

Tobe continues to see Harlan. Her father's rage increases, and he manages to shatter her bedroom window. The romantically involved couple ride a horse that supposedly belongs to one of Harlan's friends named Charlie. Upon returning, Charlie (Bruce Dern) claims he has never met Harlan and that the horse was stolen. The couple are held in police custody until Wade comes to pick up Tobe. She tells Harlan that they should no longer see each other. Harlan, however, is persistent. He takes out Lonnie to shoot guns without Wade's permission and is confronted by Lonnie's father, who is armed, ordering Harlan to leave his children alone.

Harlan is evicted from his apartment after shooting at his reflection in a mirror, imagining a Wild West style "shoot-out" scene. It is made clear at this point that he is, to some degree, mentally unstable or delusional. After an awkward incident at a local synagogue, where he is abruptly ushered out, he breaks into what is presumably the house of his father or foster father, who is revealed to be a Hasidic Jew. He leaves the letter he has been narrating throughout the movie after taking multiple Jewish memorabilia, and the contents of a box, in a closet, inscribed with his name. He breaks into Tobe's house and packs a bag so that they can run away. When Tobe comes home to find him, she is dumbfounded, happy to see him at first, but slowly realizes he is deranged and tells him she doesn't want to leave her family and that he should go. At that point, she says "What's wrong with you?!", then he replies with the same and Harlan shoots her in the stomach, probably because he is used to saying that to his mirror and shooting.

When Tobe's father returns home to find Tobe alone on her bed, barely alive, he suspects Harlan, who has failed in an attempt at calling 9-1-1 and run away. Wade rushes his wounded daughter to the hospital, where she is attached to a breathing machine and remains in a coma. Harlan, who is covered in Tobe's blood, then shoots himself in the side to conceal Tobe's blood and also make it look like it was Wade who had shot Tobe and then shot at him. He finds Lonnie and talks him into going away. He convinces Lonnie that it was really Wade who shot Tobe, and that Harlan was wounded while trying to stop him. Tobe regains consciousness at the hospital and Wade realizes that Lonnie has been taken by Harlan. He pursues them. At night while Harlan and Lonnie are by a fire, Wade, Charlie and a detective named Sheridan arrive. Harlan shoots Charlie before riding off with Lonnie.

They stumble upon a Western motion picture set where filming has just begun. Wade and Sheridan arrive with two more cops. During the shootout Harlan guns down detective Sheridan and one of the cops. Harlan and Lonnie escape to a construction site, where Wade finds them and another shootout ensues. Wade shoots Harlan to death to the horror of Lonnie.

Later, Tobe and Lonnie are driven by Wade to a place where Tobe and Harlan had a pleasant day. Tobe is holding a box that contains her former lover's ashes. Her brother asks her what they should say about him. She replies, "Don't say anything, just think it," and scatters the ashes.


Actor Role
Edward Norton Harlan Fairfax Curruthers
Evan Rachel Wood October (Tobe)
David Morse Wade
Rory Culkin Lonnie (Twig)
Bruce Dern Charlie
John Diehl Steve
Geoffrey Lewis Sheridan
Elizabeth Peña Gale
Kat Dennings April
Hunter Parrish Kris
Aviva Sherri
Terrence Evans Director
Aaron Fors Jeremy


Writer David Jacobson was inspired to write this film by his childhood in the San Fernando Valley. He commented that there was never much to do except throw things onto the highway (which possibly inspired a deleted scene from the film titled Don't Look), have dirt clod fights, and spending many hot summer days at the local cinema with friends, watching the same films over and over. One favorite was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which he watched seventeen times. Jacobson also has noted that he and his sister were mild backgrounds for Tobe and Lonnie. The script was written with loose scenes, and is considered by Jacobson himself to be some of his lighter work.

Critical reception[edit]

American movie critic Roger Ebert expressed mixed feelings about the film in his review for the Chicago Sun Times. On the one hand, he noted several qualities "that make me happy to have seen it", especially the nuanced acting performance of Edward Norton and the "peculiar loneliness" of his character Harlan. On the other hand, Ebert took issue with the film's ending which he found to be implausible and driven too much by the abstract idea behind the plot instead of the characters in it.[2]

As of January 2012, the film holds a 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes indicating mixed critical reception.[3]


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Down in the Valley". Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (19 May 2006)
  3. ^ "Down in the Valley". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 

External links[edit]