Noodles tells the story of relationship that falls apart, starting at the collapse and working its way backward to the beginning.
In most films, the flow of time is fairly linear, starting at the beginning, moving through the middle, then ending at the ending. Some films will make use of flashbacks, momentarily disrupting the flow of time, but by and large, time within the world of a film usually mimics the way time flows in real life. Noodles, on the other hand, completely ignores this standard, opting for a more unconventional way to relate the story. While time within each scene flows as one would expect it to, each scene takes us further back in time in the story, until the last scene of the film gives us the first scene of the story. This unique style allows the film to control how much information the viewer has at any given moment in order to manipulate emotions.
The most striking effect of this manipulation of time is that by starting at the finish, the audience knows exactly how the film ends, and now matter at what point in the relationship we see the couple during film, we know that the relationship does in fact end. Not only that, but we know that the relationship ends badly. Because of this, any darker moment in the relationship we see seems that much darker, as we know where it ultimately leads, and any happy moment in the relationship seems fleeting, since we know that ultimately it didn’t help.
Another interesting effect of this manipulation of time is the film’s ability to freely withhold information from the audience. Since at any given moment in the film we don’t know what happened earlier in the story, the film is a constant game of film in the blank, as the audience tries to figure out how the story got where it is. Similarly, the film can also jump back in time to just moments before the previous scene began, or hours, or even days, more freely than a film with a more linear time-line would be able to, because the audience already knows what happens to the couple in question after such large time jump.
Outside of the unique time-line, the film thrives on its strong directing and powerful acting. Claire Fowler’s directing very effectively guides the audience to the most important information in the shot or the scene at large, allowing her to tel her story very effectively without ever forcing information on the viewer. Because of this narrative efficiency, despite the fact the the story is told in a slightly disjointed and uncomfortable way, by the end of the film the viewer still feels that they have been told a complete story, rather than that they have just been given individual pieces of a story.
Also contributing to the film’s strength is the acting of Natasha Bassett and Shane Coffey. At its core, Noodles is a film about two people and their emotions, so for this film to work well the audience must be able to feel those emotions, or at the very least, see that the emotions the characters are feeling are genuine. Bassett and Coffey had a natural chemistry on screen, with the romance feeling natural and the fighting feeling truly bitter, creating a feeling almost as if this were a film about Natasha and Shane themselves, and not the characters that they were playing.
Overall, Noodles is a very well written and constructed film from director Claire Fowler. While it may not be the first film to employ a backwards time-line, very few films could do so as effectively or as efficiently as Noodles does. The film is long enough to tell a complete story, but not so long that the time manipulation gets confusing or played out, allowing the film to stay strong throughout its entire duration, from finish to start.