Starring : Kathryn Worth, Tom Hiddleston
Director : Joanna Hogg
THERE are two reasons to celebrate the arrival on our screens of Unrelated, a Tuscany-set drama of social unease and acute embarrassment. First and foremost, this is easily one of the most accomplished and unmissable new releases of 2008: a simple, supremely well-observed story of ordinary human emotions, with performances and dialogue that are, from the first scene to the last, painfully accurate and convincing.
The second cause for celebration: Unrelated is the first movie to appear under the auspices of distribution company New Wave Films. Such organisations are crucial for the survival and exposure of non-mainstream cinema, and their slate includes the latest by the Dardenne brothers and Claire Denis. It's encouraging that they're sailing into battle – at this tough time for arthouses – with such a 'risky' box-office proposition. Writer-director Hogg is essentially an unknown, with only a smattering of TV credits (including 2003 EastEnders special Dot's Story). Her movie has, it must be said, divided critical opinion since its premiere at the London Film Festival last year – but those of use who like Unrelated tend to be passionate admirers. The picture won the international critics' prize at the LFF, with juror Roger Clarke proclaiming "a new kind of British film."
Shot in and around Sienna, it's primarily a detailed character-study of Anna (Worth), a mousy woman in her early forties who's experiencing unspecified marital problems. Keen to escape the stresses of home, she visits her long-time best pal Verena (Mary Roscoe) – who's holidaying in a well-appointed villa with her husband, children and some family friends. Feeling awkward among the dull, bourgeois adults, Anna gravitates towards the party's younger members – rapidly, and unwisely, allowing herself to become smitten with flirtatious, twentyish Oakley (Hiddleston)…
Shot on digital video on what was clearly a minimal budget, Unrelated shows just what can be achieved with the most limited and unpromising means. Hogg clearly has very intimate, first-hand knowledge of the specific social strata she is exploring and dramatising here, and the result is one of those rare works where we feel more like casual eavesdroppers than detached spectators. She's already working on her follow-up – and if this stunning debut (which has inspired comparisons with established masters such as Michael Haneke and Eric Rohmer) is any sort of guide, Hogg may develop into one of the major names in British cinema over the next few years.
9th September, 2008
written for the current issue of Tribune magazine
UNRELATED : [8/10] : UK 2008 : Joanna HOGG : 100m (BBFC) : seen 26th April 2008 : Moviemento cinema, Linz, Austria : public screening (complimentary ticket; Crossing Europe film festival) : original review