BFI LFF 2020: Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets – Film Review

Not a documentary, yet not a mockumentary either, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is an in-depth look into the lives of Americans and the places that they go to drink. With pub closures on the up, this is something I feel I can relate to on a British level also, understanding that need and want for connection like we see in this film.

Through neon red lights, different chapters and shaky footage, we are introduced to a Las Vegas bar on its last night, celebrating its staff and customers until the door locks for the final time. Testing boundaries, it neither appeals to me as a way of life, yet at the same time you feel welcomed by the characters on your screen, wanting to be in the room with them but also very far from it. From an English point of view, pubs are so important in communities. For a general meal or drinking each evening, we all have different relationships to the buildings near us that are often some of the longest standing establishments. Seeing a popular bar in America closing is upsetting, knowing that a business that brings people together will no longer exist. It’s the same here in the UK, how a hole is left when a pub closes, yet we don’t do anything to stop the next one, or the one after that.

Directed by brothers Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross, they do incredibly well to make us feel like characters in the film, as well as just flies on the wall observing the action. It’s an interesting choice to go with a documentary genre, without it being a true story, but that adds a cool interest to it, and like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I don’t know if the characters are based on real people that they’ve come across or they’re new identities all together, but they all feel authentic and believable. Blurring the lines, both with alcohol and of different film genres, this feels experimental, but loveable. It makes me think of shows like The Office, where we fall in love with the characters and want to be in the world ourselves.

But it isn’t just this. Tough topics are bought up and discussed. Whether sex, war, age, it all appeared in this film, which is realistic to real outings that include alcohol and added to the fly on the wall idea. For a film to look at so much, not just one storyline, it was interesting. I liked how each character was so different and how we could see them change through the evening, whether through alcohol or annoyance, but it added more realism to it.

The soundtrack played an important part for me. Random jukebox tunes that frame evenings without us noticing can often be songs that mean more to us. I liked how it felt that the music was on shuffle, yet at the same time it was the perfect tune for each moment, whether Michael Jackson, a singalong or something slower.

With nearly 1 hour and 40 minutes of cool yet craziness, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets may seem random to some viewers, but to others it’ll be a fantastic journey of understanding and love, even in a world of hatred and sadness. We all need times and friends like these, whether in real life, or provided to us through a film just like this one.

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