Gordon (Richard Lumsden) wishes to do something significant with his friends now they are well into middle age, and settles on a walk from coast to coast over the period of nearly a couple of weeks, so he assembles the man he has kept in touch with, Keith (Karl Theobald) and two of the schoolfriends he has not been so close to these past few years, Julian (Ned Dennehy) and Steve (Jeremy Swift), with the hopes they can rekindle whatever made their shared companionship so great back when they were teenagers. Gordon also recruits his teenage son Luke (Rupert Simonian) to record this journey on his video camera, and off they go... but there are unforseen clashes ahead.
Yes, it was yet another found footage, or in this case mockumentary movie, though let us be thankful it wasn't more cheapo horror and was a comedy, which was the way the genre had started out more or less with works like Albert Brooks' Real Life and Christopher Guest's This Is Spinal Tap. While Downhill was not as good as those, and wasn't going to be as close to groundbreaking either, it offered a goodnatured hour and a half in spite of the characters' tendency to get on one another's nerves, which you could have predicted from the first few scenes. Indeed, the way it played out you fully expected one of the blokes to be dead before the film was over, probably through some combination of exhaustion and alcohol poisoning.
They didn't half drink here, so much that it began to strain credibility about how much of the walk they could actually complete in each day - the hangovers must have been enough to keep the participants in bed nursing thumping headaches for hours after breakfast was served at the hotels. Thanks to Torben Betts' script and TV ad director James Rouse, both making their debuts, the personalities were sketched in quickly and with some aptitude, assisted by a cast who were experienced enough to render them entirely believable, even at the points where their relationships became more extreme as their bonds are tested mightily by both the hardship of their walk and the way they grate on each other.
Julian is the main offender here, a louche, self-styled arts patron who delights in being as offensive as he can just to get a reaction, any one will do from laughter to an outright huff. Naturally he takes this too far in a number of drunken rants, though Keith's inebriated admission that he is gay provides Julian with more fuel for his material, making a rather contrived plot point more necessary than it might otherwise have been. Steve, meanwhile, complains loudly as the least physically fit of the quartet and for a while appears as if he will have to be abandoned on a hill somewhere, as Gordon, for whom this trip means the most, attempts to convey that importance to his fellow hikers with decreasing success, so we can tell events are going to come to a head before long.
Linked with charming animation dividing each day, the older gentlemen's escapades could have become repetitive wth each scene simply more bickering, but after a while you would quite like to see them succeed in their goal, if only to prove that friendship can last a little longer than a few short years and give you hope that those you considered your comrades way back when can still demonstrate that sense of togetherness, even if this walk is a rather desperate recreation of the good times of old on a shorter scale. Julian does his best to sabotage that, though there's no real malice in him, it's just his way of coping with ageing, something each of the four men have to face up to, especially when they meet a younger couple of women (Emma Pierson and Katie Lyons) taking the same trip who both energise their excursion and remind them they are nowhere near as youthful as they used to be. Only the last act lapses into sentimentality, a misstep but not enough to spoil what may not have been hilarious, but has been reflective and gently amusing. Music by Park Music (lots of acoustic guitar).