Unrelated is the excellent debut from English writer and director Joanna Hogg. An object lesson in less is more, it makes an absolute virtue of its small cast and diminutive budget to leave you with the resonant impression of an intelligent film assuredly made.

Anna (Kathryn Worth) arrives at a villa in the Tuscany countryside, invited by her friend Verena (Mary Roscoe) to join her bourgeois family on holiday. Along with Verena’s teenage sons and daughter there’s another father with his son, Oakley (Tom Hiddleston). Anna quickly apologises for her husband Alex not being able to join them due to sudden work pressures.

Copy picture

Amid the rolling Italian countryside, beneath the hazy skies and among the whirring cicadas the middle-aged Anna increasingly wants to spend time with the vivacious, spontaneous and boozing teenagers. Charging around the fields and historic towns they certainly seem more fun than the rather staid adults, especially the roguishly flirtatious Oakley. Conceited in swagger and confident in charm Anna looks towards him for that breath of fresh holiday air she appears to be yearning.

A superbly measured sexual tension begins to simmer and further strains emerge. Anna’s phone calls to Alex clearly indicate all has been far from well at home, an almost hatefully aggressive relationship between Oakley and his father surfaces and Anna becomes even more distanced from the demanding Verena. Our affectingly humorous introduction to the group matures along these fault lines into a deep involvement with a delectably mounting sense of the uncomfortable. Not in a Haneke sense, more because the frictions are cultivated so believably. When things then inevitably rupture Hogg stays with the believable dramatics rather than reducing her set up to the histrionics of a lesser film.

The director builds her film around Worth’s convincing performance of a woman out of place and out of step with life. She’s not only facing some fundamental changes at her age, but also the questions and issues she has never turned to before. She is often on the periphery of the group, resignedly aggrieved at never really being involved or able to promote herself further. That the group occasionally reveals its self-centred, gratingly priggish and unattractive colours adds more pathos to Anna’s lack of and yearning for some familial belonging.

An affluent upper-middle class clique, idyllic surroundings, simmering antagonisms? Hogg is stirring the strong flavours of Chabrol, Ozu and Rohmer into her British dish to great effect. Subtexts, or the real meanings, of people’s superficial and sparingly used words are teased out and she is adept at holding the camera on Worth while conversations and actions take place beyond the static frame. Everything that might be going on is conveyed, but it is the effects of this on Anna that enthral the attention here.

Some may find the ending a bit pat, but given what precedes I found the final notes maintained the tenability far more effectively that it may first appear. Ultimately, a thematically brave, personal and very contemporary piece has emerged that will move you long after more bombastic fare has faded.

Reviewed on: 29 Oct 2007
Share this with others on...
A middle-aged woman holidays with her bourgeois friends in Tuscany. Plus read our with Joanna Hogg.

Director: Joanna Hogg

Writer: Joanna Hogg

Starring: Kathryn Worth, Tom Hiddleston, Mary Roscoe, David Rintoul, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Harry Kershaw, Michael Hadley, Emma Hiddleston, Leonetta Mazzini

Year: 2007

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Search database:

Related Articles:

Joanna Hogg talks Unrelated

If you like this, try:

The Anniversary Party
The Flower Of Evil