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Fringe Report is now closed. Fringe Report closed on its 10th anniversary, Thursday 12 July 2012. It remains online as a record of 10 exciting years in the arts. Till July 2013, previously unwritten content is being added to the site from the past 10 years, but we are no longer reviewing new material. You can still write to us on the existing email addresses. Good luck with your shows.
Verdict: Lyrical revelation of emotions
A middle-class partly-related English group holiday together in a house in Siena, in the Italian countryside. The middle-aged adults are Verena (Mary Roscoe) on her second marriage, to Charlie (Michael Hadley); and George (David Rintoul). The 16-19 group are (youngest) Archie (Harry Kershaw), his sister Badge (Emma Hiddleston) and their brother Jack (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) - who belong to Verena and Charlie; it's not clear which are their parents - and their older (perhaps 18- or 19-years-old) male cousin Oakley (Tom Hiddleston), the son of George. Middle-aged Anna (Kathryn Worth) and her husband Alex were expected together, but Anna arrives alone.
She arrives in the night, in an opening scene that suggests a slasher movie, but once all have said their hellos in hooray-henry-and-henrietta barks, Unrelated moves into middle-class-social-drama territory, where it remains, comfortably. No-one dies, there are a few rows, nothing dramatic happens, and an hour and 40 minutes passes pleasantly, much as it might in the Shires. Concerns peculiar to the class are examined, the script is faultlessly excellent, the dialogue exact, passions swell and recede. Anna's inner turmoil is that she is starting the menopause and won't be able to have children - hardly a world-stopping crisis. She goes through a transition of 'needing time to think' away from Alex, trying to re-enter youth (preferably with youth entering her), accepting the isolation of age, and happily going back to Alex in the short length of the holiday.
George and Oakley have a blazing row because they haven't much of an emotional bridge. Both seem cold and stubborn; but they're not completely, and there's a hint they may at least accept each other underneath. Badge is the most enigmatic and attractive character in the story, delivered in a fine performance by Emma Hiddleston, caught gently growing up, sometimes liking to play with the boys, sometimes liking to go shopping with her mother. Verena and Anna were schoolfriends long ago, and haven't seen much of each other. It's a strained relationship, and Verena has a severe side to her character that drops grit into their times together. Charlie doesn't say much, which seems wise given the woman he's married. 'Don't you just want to run away?' asks Anna. 'I did' says Verena - from her first marriage, to Charlie, 6 years previously. There's an evident affection between them. Archie's shy, a little awkward, but ready to join in. Jack is reflective, able to play the others' games, but perceptive and sometimes withdrawn. Oakley is outgoing and apparently confident, wanting to learn to chat up Italian girls.
The core of the film is Anna's sexual and borderline-paedophilic longing for Oakley. He's drawn to her, and there's a lasting tension as to whether they'll have sex. They don't, and that is part of the film's cleverness. Although no significant events happen, emotions are exposed and viewed from all sides. When she arrives, Anna is drawn to 'the young', as the parents call them. There are two cars, one for the young, the other for 'the olds'. Anna goes with the youngs, smoking dope with the three boys and Badge; swimming with them; sometimes going hand in hand with Oakley. She buys black underwear from a lingerie shop owner (Luisa Bartolomei) ready to sleep with Oakley. They kiss outside her room at night. 'You can come in if you want', she offers. 'I'd better not', he says, leaving her crestfallen.
It's the pivot of the story, and sets Anna's future in place. She's forced to betray a secret, which binds her to the young people, to the adult group - because she's an adult. The young lot shun her, the older ones have their own worries. She is left isolated. Although there are reconciliations to the extent of politeness - it is a superb study of manners - Anna is faced with the reality of being - the film's title - unrelated. Unrelated by blood; unrelated in circumstance - she will ever be childless; unrelated in age - she can never be young again and must now face growing old and, eventually, dying. 'A family with just two people on their own. That's not my understanding of it', she says to Alex on the phone. But by the end, as she makes her way back home alone, she is chatting happily to him on the phone about looking forward to seeing him.
The script is the masterpiece of writer and director Joanna Hogg. Every word is of use, none is out of place. There's not a thing in the film that isn't carefully-considered. Every scene is exquisitely chosen as a point. 'Campari is an old man's drink' says Oakley, to infuriate his father George - he calls him 'Sir' - and emphasise the distance beteen them. Leaving the holiday, when Anna briefly goes off on her own, scenery switches to construction sites, pylons, roundabouts - real ordinary Italy rather than the Arcadian fantasty of holiday life.
Emotional desire between Anna and Oakley is evoked in scene fragments - looks, playing, touching, implication - all done with subtlety and suggestion. His refusal of her sexual invitation, her disappointment, and her own longing as a passionate woman are consequently unbearably touching, poignant. Her realisation that she can never be young again is gently done, the point made clear by her experiences rather than being preached, which makes it powerfully sad. Her ability to bounce is at first surprising, given the disappointment she feels at social rejection (Oakley: 'I've got nothing to say to you'; Jack (shouts at her): 'Fuck off'), and then endearing. Anna reveals herself to be ready to go forward rather than dragging her feet in the past.
The title is a very poor indicator of the film. It's as if someone has nervously applied an angsty-Nordic film-festival label on a delightful, warm, pulsing study of English manners (and passions) as if that wasn't an artistically-respectable subject. Unrelated is certainly a description of aspects of the story, but it doesn't catch its essence. There is so much more going on, so much nuance and understanding of the relationships of various kinds of love. Although it is mainly Anna's story, there is much more to her character as revealed, and much more in the stories of the other people, than simply a lack of connection. It would be great if for distribution there was a title that caught the rich emotional revelation of the film. There's no question this can be a hugely popular film, with its beguiling sensitivity able to touch hearts - pretty unusual for an English film. Why not allow its name to invite the enormous mainstream audience it deserves, rather than confining it to a couple of arthouses in major cities through sulky noire-y labelling?
Director Of photography Oliver Curtis makes the scenes almost like paintings - there's a very high-art (but not in a look-at-me way) feel to the outside scenes in particular. The visuals suggest poetry, whereas the dialogue is absolutely straightforward, real-sounding conversation. There's a stunning matching of emotions and what's on the screen. A field of dead, drooped sunflowers goes with the loss of the holiday's idyll; a thunderstorm matches explosions of temper. Anna's nakedness is gently and sensually described. This is enhanced by the sensitivity of production designer Stephane Collonge's creation of the surroundings of her bedroom, evoking her wanting, and aloneness.
Anna is the centre of the story, and it is her remarkable portrayal by Kathryn Worth that is the film's emotional anchor, and its hidden volcano. Kathryn Worth's performance never allows Anna to erupt, but she smoulders wonderfully. It quickly becomes her film, because of the actor's ability to suggest the quiet and dangerous forces of Anna's middle-aged feelings stirring at first lazily, and later almost uncontollably; and to portray Anna's thoughts and moods with suggestions, hints, nuance.
Editor Helle Le Fevre's cutting and judgment keep a pace exactly appropriate to the soft rises, falls and climaxes of emotion that characterise the script; and providing an excellent ending - the final scene makes its point and cuts - superb. There is an intense feeling of unity running through the film - that a clear vision has been applied both in overview and in all the details, which reflect great credit on producer Barbara Stone. A wonderful film may be a rare event, but this is it. There are also two very good dog performances, uncredited.
Cast (alpha order): Luisa Bartolomei - Lingerie Shop Owner. Elisabetta Fiorentini - Elisabetta. Guiseppe Fiorentini - The Count. Michael Hadley - Charlie. Emma Hiddleston - Badge. Tom Hiddleston - Oakley. Harry Kershaw - Archie. Henry Lloyd-Hughes - Jack. Leonetta Mazzini - Leonetta. Giovanna Mennell - Giovanna. Jonathan Mennell - Jonathan. David Rintoul - George. Mary Roscoe - Verena. Kathryn Worth - Anna. (Credits source: producerís notes 4 October 07)
Company & Crew: Writer & Director - Joanna Hogg. Producer - Barbara Stone. Director Of Photography - Oliver Curtis Bsc. Production Designer - Stephane Collonge. Editor - Helle Le Fevre. Production Coordinator - Louise Alaimo. 1st Assistant Director - Paolo Guglielmotti. Script Supervisor - Sara J Doughty. Sound Recordist - Chris Mcdermott. Supervising Sound Editor - Jovan Adjer. (Credits source: producerís notes 4 October 07)
IMDB Credits: www.imdb.com/title/tt1107850/
reviewed Thursday 4 October 07 / National Film Theatre - NFT1 - Press Preview - 10:30
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