There have been a lot of adaptations, homages or films otherwise inspired by Rear Window; Number 37 might just be the best.

Confined to a wheelchair and an upper-level apartment of a Cape Town township following an off-screen run-in with a drug dealer, Randall (Irshaad Ally) has precious days to pay back the money he secured for the ill-fated exchange from a loan shark (Danny Ross). Gifted a pair of binoculars by his partner Pam (Monique Rockman), Randall spies a corrupt police officer’s killing across the way, and from there things escalate even further.

Signally in it’s very opening frames that our thriller takes place in an outwardly and blatantly violent corner of the world, the witnessing of the aforementioned crime on the immediate tail-end of Randall’s own misfortunes may appear as that ever so convenient narrative incidence. Certainly less so to those, among our central characters and their contemporaries, so accustomed to such events that, as stated in the film, recur on a daily basis, Number 37’s treatment of violence is indeed graphic however, given that which it omits as much as that which it includes, not overstated.

Ally’s Randall is roundly engaging; the actor managing to traverse some familiar passages and even strikingly similar visual elements of its key inspiration while inverting Hitchcock’s storyline to that more tragically reflective of our figures’ surroundings. As good as Ally and Rockman are as the besieged couple, it is our noted criminals and most distinct among them Ross’ enigmatic if utterly vile muscle, who takes any and every opportunity to expound his musings, that stand out amongst our small cast of characters.

Packing several intensely foreboding action sequences, Number 37 fares less well on those sparing occasions when it situates our point of view outside Randall’s apartment. Two instances where the filmmakers draw on tonally inconsistent and largely inconsequential visual effects to depict impediments to any given character or impending doom could just as well have been achieved with the straightforward cinematic techniques that had hitherto been deployed to great effect. Having taken visible effort to construct the apartment in which we mostly spend our time, the exterior locations, most notably a police station, lack the level of production design otherwise evinced by Number 37’s key setting.

One worth catching for having put such a vibrant local spin on so much that is already classic, above and beyond this Number 37 manages much else that you haven’t seen before.

Number 37 screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival and will screen as part of the Sydney South African Film Festival on Saturday May 18

For an interview with Number 37 Director Nosipho Dumisa see here

on Falkenscreen