US release poster
|Directed by||Danny Boyle|
|Produced by||Andrew Macdonald|
|Written by||John Hodge|
|Music by||Simon Boswell|
|Edited by||Masahiro Hirakubo|
|Distributed by||Gramercy Pictures|
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
|Box office||$19.8 million (worldwide)|
Shallow Grave is a 1994 British black comedy crime film that marked the cinematic directorial debut of Danny Boyle with an original screenplay by John Hodge. It provided starring roles for the then relatively little-known actors Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox. The film was not only the directorial debut of Danny Boyle, but Ewan McGregor's first feature film role, John Hodge's first screenplay, and Andrew Macdonald's first job as a producer.
Chartered accountant David Stephens, physician Juliet Miller, and journalist Alex Law share a flat in Edinburgh. Needing a new flatmate, they interview several applicants in a calculatedly cruel manner, amusing themselves at the applicants' expense before finally offering the room to the mysterious Hugo. Shortly after Hugo moves in, the trio finds him dead from an apparent overdose in his room, with a large suitcase full of money. They agree to conceal the death, keep the money for themselves and bury the body in the woods after removing the hands and feet to prevent identification. They draw lots, and David is given the gruesome task of dismembering the corpse, while Juliet disposes of the hands and feet in her hospital's incinerator.
Unknown to them, Hugo is being sought by a pair of violent men, who are torturing and murdering informants as they follow Hugo's trail. The flat below theirs is broken into, making them anxious. The intrusion also draws the attention of the police, who are surprised when the three deny that they ever had a fourth flatmate. While Juliet and Alex spend part of the money to "feel better", David's fears turn into full-blown paranoia. He hides the suitcase of money in the attic and begins living there, drilling holes in the attic floor to watch the living space below. The relationship between the three becomes increasingly strained and distrustful.
The men trailing Hugo break into the trio's flat, coercing Alex and Juliet to reveal where the money is. As the men enter the dark attic, David kills both of them with a hammer. David returns to the woods to dispose of the bodies. Alex and Juliet become more worried than ever about David's mental state, and David becomes worried that the two are conspiring against him. Meanwhile, the police are already circling in the form of Detectives Inspector McCall and Constable Mitchell. Hoping to flee the country, Juliet secretly buys a plane ticket to Rio de Janeiro, but she also seduces David to get at the money. Matters come to a head after the three bodies are discovered in their shallow graves, and Alex is sent by his newspaper office to cover the story. He returns to find Juliet and David have reached an understanding about their shared plans that excludes him. Fearing for his life, Alex tries to secretly phone McCall, but he is interrupted by David and Juliet. The doorstep altercation quickly escalates into a murderous triangular fight. David reveals that he knows Juliet's secret plan to betray them and despite her seductive attempts to calm him, he punches her, prompting Alex to attack him. During the battle, David stabs Alex in the shoulder, but Juliet kills him before he can finish Alex off.
With David dead, Juliet betrays Alex and tells him that he can't come with her. She then forces the knife even deeper into Alex's shoulder, pinning him to the floor, before fleeing to the airport with the suitcase of money. At the airport, she discovers that she has been tricked and cries hysterically: the suitcase is not filled with money, but with hundreds of headline clippings about the triple grave taken from Alex's newspaper. Devastated, with no possessions except her air ticket, and knowing that she will soon be wanted for murder, Juliet boards the plane. The police arrive at the flat to find Alex still alive, but bleeding heavily and pinned to the floor, grinning to himself. The camera pans down to reveal that Alex had hidden the missing bundles of cash under the floorboards.
- Kerry Fox as Juliet Miller: A spirited and mysterious doctor, who is constantly being courted by different men, many of whom repeatedly call the flat trying to speak to her. Despite this, she also appears to be in a relationship with David as well as openly flirting with Alex.
- Christopher Eccleston as David Stephens: A shy chartered accountant, who keeps a low profile. After drawing the short straw and having to cut up the body, he becomes introverted and paranoid.
- Ewan McGregor as Alex Law. A cheeky and vain, self-described "hack" journalist. Alex works for the local paper and is able to find out inside information of the police investigation. His confidence in their plot starts to be undermined by David's deteriorating mental health.
- Ken Stott as Detective Inspector McCall
- Keith Allen as Hugo. An enigmatic man who rents the spare room on the pretence of being a writer. He is later found dead after a drug overdose, leaving a suitcase full of money under his bed.
- Colin McCredie as Cameron. A potential flatmate who is interviewed at the beginning of the film. He is ridiculed and then thrown out by Alex and the housemates, Later, at a party, Alex once again mocks Cameron resulting in Cameron punching him.
- Victoria Nairn as Woman Visitor, the "identify this song" potential flatmate
- Gary Lewis as Male Visitor, the "not having an affair" potential flatmate
- Jean Marie Coffey as Goth, a potential flatmate
- Peter Mullan as Andy, a murderous thug searching for Hugo and the money
- Leonard O'Malley as Tim, a murderous thug searching for Hugo and the money
In addition, the film's screenwriter, John Hodge, appears in the role of Detective Constable Mitchell, whose main duty appears to be writing: "Make a note of that, Mitchell. ... Write it down."
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Shooting for Shallow Grave lasted for thirty days. The tight budgetary restraints during filming meant many of the props had to be auctioned off for them to afford sufficient film stock.
Danny Boyle said in his commentary on the 2009 Special Edition DVD and 2012 Blu-ray that Alex is not meant to be dead, so the line of Alex saying hello to the detective was added in post-production to clarify this.
Locations in the film include:
- Flat 6 North East Circus Place, New Town, Edinburgh
- Hospital scenes were filmed at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Renfrewshire
- The dance scene was filmed at the Townhouse Hotel, 54 West George Street, near George Square in Glasgow
Reception and impact
The film was the most commercially successful British film of 1995, although initially not widely seen elsewhere, the film grossed a total of just $2,834,250 in the United States. It led to Boyle's internationally successful production, Trainspotting, two years later. Shallow Grave earned Boyle the Best Newcomer Award from the 1996 London Film Critics Circle and, together with Trainspotting, led to critical commentary that Boyle had revitalised British cinema in the early 1990s.
- 1995 Angers European First Film Festival
- Audience Award – Feature Film
- Best Screenplay – Feature Film
- Liberation Advertisement Award
- 1995 BAFTA – Alexander Korda Award for Best British film (shared with Andrew Macdonald)
- 1995 Cognac Festival du Film Policier
- Audience Award
- Grand Prix
- 1994 Dinard British Film Festival
- Golden Hitchcock
- 1st Empire Awards (1996)
- 1995 Evening Standard British Film Award
- Most Promising Newcomer for Danny Boyle
- 1995 Fantasporto (Portugal)
- International Fantasy Film Award – Best Film
- 1994 San Sebastian International Film Festival
- Silver Seashell – Best Director
|Soundtrack album by|
|Genre||Electronic, jazz, rock|
|Danny Boyle film soundtrack chronology|
- Leftfield – "Shallow Grave" – 4:38
- Simon Boswell – "Shallow Grave Theme" – 3:30
- Nina Simone – "My Baby Just Cares for Me" – 3:38
- Simon Boswell – "Laugh Riot" – 3:02
- Leftfield – "Release the Dubs" – 5:45
- John Carmichael Band – "Strip the Willow" – 3:12
- Simon Boswell – "Loft Conversion" – 5:45
- Simon Boswell – "A Spade, We Need a Spade" – 2:41
- Simon Boswell – "Shallow Grave, Deep Depression" – 4:49
- Simon Boswell – "Hugo's Last Trip" – 5:39
- Andy Williams – "Happy Heart" – 3:11
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