There are films that are like a good thriller, that keep you on the edge of your seat from one moment to the next. There are films like a good beach novel, that document the fortunes and misfortunes of people interacting with each other, living. marrying, giving birth and dying. And then there's the cinematic equivalent of the short story; an unfashionable literary form which records a snapshot of a moment when things change almost imperceptibly but irrevocably.
Diner is a short-story film. Six young men pass a week in Baltimore. It's a significant week between Christmas and New Year on the threshold of a new decade, but nothing much happens. There are no adrenaline rushes on tap, everything happens in the head. One young man is about to get married but has his doubts (the marriage is to be conditional on his fiancée passing a test on football). Another is already married but isn't comfortable with the constraint. Another rushes from date to date but can't commit. Others are just fighting a rearguard action against having to be grown up. And whenever they get uncomfortable they turn to their favourite all-night diner for comfort. During the course of the week, each of the six makes a tiny but critical step away from the comfort of the diner and towards acceptance of adulthood.
This kind of coming-of-age film is never as easy to watch as those with a strongly-defined plot, but they are often my favourites because they reward close attention, often over several viewings. One viewing probably isn't enough to pick up everything that's going on but there's plenty to keep attending to and, although I will take some convincing that Diner is a match for The Last Picture Show, my absolute favourite of the genre, I'll be looking forward to many repeats. If nothing else, the soundtrack is everything you could expect from a film set at the tail end of 1959.