Friday, September 19, 2008

UNRELATED - so good I'm tempted to tag it "pantheon"

UNRELATED seemed much longer than its run-time and that's a good thing. It feels long because it's intense, and because you feel you have come to know and sympathise with a group of complicated, interesting people in an almost unbearable situation. It's been a while since I've seen a movie featuring actors that look real - middle-aged women with crow's feet - and act real - making wrong choices that aren't movie-cute or contrived. And it's certainly been a while since I've seen a movie where I was so on edge, desperate to know how it was going to develop.

Anna is a middle-aged, middle-class woman. She arrives at a Tuscan villa at night. It's so dark you can't see her face. A group of teenagers, rich with the arrogance of youth, wonder who she is. She tries to sleep despite their loud talking. The following morning she meets their parents - her friends - but she's equally awkward with them.

Perhaps it's boredom that leads the kids to adopt her as a token member of their group. Soon Anna is flirting with "Oakley" and he flirts back. It's excruciating to watch her watching him. Eventually, when she pushes the moment, he backs off and she has to go through the indignity of being an outsider again. The situation becomes even worse when a big family row proves how far she has no place with them and, as far as we know at that point, no place with her husband back in England. Finally, Anna comes full circle. She is back at the villa at night, but instead of partying with the kids in a desperate act of recapturing her youth, she's annoyed by the loud talking. She's an adult again, dealing head on with her emotions.

Kathryn Worth is outstanding as Anna and she is supported by a note-perfect cast. Mary Roscoe is utterly convincing as her stalwart best friend and David Rintoul has a rather chilling role as the other "old" George. Among the kids, Tom Hiddleston is quite brilliant as "Oakley" - the charming young man who is quite aware of his impact on Anna but equally just wants to boff the girl in the villa next door.

UNRELATED is testament to the fact that big budgets, flashy effects and saccharine endings aside, cinema can be powerful and insightful and intelligent. That it is a debut feature is even more impressive. I can't wait to see what Joanna Hogg does next.

UNRELATED played London 2007 where Joanna Hogg won the Fipresci prize. It is currently on release in the UK.

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