The paparazzi are shits, this we know. However, the paparazzi are also humans, with the same emotional capacities, desires and urges as the rest of us, and subject to the same trials and tribulations as the wider populace, regardless of how ethical or unethical their chosen profession may be. Daniel Florencio's Chasing Robert Barker, screening this week at the East End Film Festival, adopts this line of thinking as its driving force, exploring one of the more derided career paths in the media, and attempts to humanise the often demonised man behind the camera with entertaining if perhaps mixed results.

An efficient little thriller, Chasing Robert Barker follows grizzled protagonist David as he stalks the grimy streets of night-time London, on the tail of a story that gradually descends into chaos. Soaked in booze and observed through a haze of cigarette smoke, Florencio's film is at its best and most enthralling when focused on the profession's seedy underbelly, and less so when attempting to combine sleaze with undertones of regret, romance, and tragedy.

When the film immerses itself in the murky waters of a discussion on privacy, it is a genuinely intriguing dissection of the media complex. However, as it progresses and introduces strands concerned with adultery, illness, and prostitution, it can often feel cluttered. CRB shines when Florencio focuses on how and why his main character does what he does, and when he involves the baying journalists, but falls flat when attempting to juggle two or three interweaving ethical debates at once.

David is a haunted man, played with weathered intensity by Gudmundur Thorvaldsson, and where its lead acts as an effective demonstration that paps are people too, the rest of the cast can feel somewhat undercooked, and the film may have benefited from the trimming of several narrative lines. A not-so-intimidating villain, an unexplored past acquaintance and a rotating line-up of singular appearances are the main culprits in this sense.

Having said that, the film is beautifully lit, with shop fronts and headlights casting an eerie glow over the nocturnal plot, and when Florencio allows the camera to linger on a darkened face or a shadowy back-alley, the visuals take on an impressively sinister tone. A disorienting club scene is the film's crowning moment in terms of direction, with Florencio allowing a rage fuelled moment of vulnerability to play out under layers of blaring music and flashy editing, and a gloriously bitter ending leaves a suitably nasty taste in the mouth. The problem is, genuinely interesting moments like this become bogged down in the aforementioned, largely unresolved and less interesting side plots, and by drawing focus away from the immersive sleaziness of it all, the dark atmosphere that Florencio works so hard to construct can falter and stumble. As a debut narrative feature, Chasing Robert Barker demonstrates a strong grasp of visuals, but lacks narrative restraint. With a little more focus Florencio's film could easily find a wide audience, but a cluttered second act throws the balance out, and the film struggles to find its feet again until the final moments.