Unrelated ★★★½

This is the first film of Joanna Hogg's that I've seen, and it's quite a formally mature debut film with directorial confidence to spare. Unrelated tells the story of Anna, a middle-aged, middle class woman joining an old friend and her extended circle of close friends on a holiday in Tuscany to escape the trouble that her long-term marriage clearly is in. She develops a bond with the young people in this holiday group, spending more time with Oakley - played by a very young Tom Hiddleston - than with her peers. An uneasy, flirtatious link start to develop, and Anna is soon confronted with the reality of the phase of life that she finds herself in.

Other than this setup, the plot is very much secondary to the introspective character study that Hogg is interested in. Her formal editorial techniques (e.g. blocking, shot choice, shot length) are excellent in bringing Anna's state of mind to the fore, while the extended group shots ensue like tiny stage plays that poke fun - quite painfully - at the veiled arrogance of the types of people who can rent a villa in central Italy for a sun-drenched holiday. This is all done very subtly, with the camera often standing statically at a distance, as if we're viewing them through a surveillance tape. Think Ozu's camera in Haneke's bourgeoisie playing field, but with a dash more humanity for its generally unlikeable characters. The development of the misplaced fondness that grows between Anna and Oakley, for example, is handled with such sensitivity, that it disappears as discreetly as it emerged. In the end, we're left staring at the aching feelings of Anna's estrangement that Hogg shows but doesn't explicitly tell us of.

There are moments when the digital camera doesn't do this well-written, understated film justice. But in terms of pure technique, I'm highly excited to see Joanna Hogg's other films. If it's anything as minutely observant, made with the same regard for the medium that she employs here, it should be great.

PS: one of my favourite parts of this film is the scene in which the car crash is revealed. We're not given any glimpse of how or what had happened, but only the aftermath. The big event is skipped, creating an even bigger dramatic effect. Simple, but brilliant.

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