Because it has no conventional action or schematic story, “Unrelated,” Joanna Hogg’s dyspeptic portrait of upper-middle-class Britons on a summer holiday in Tuscany, is the antithesis of popcorn entertainment. The guests, who span two generations, convene in a spacious rented villa equipped with a large swimming pool and caretakers. The movie observes their leisure activities with a chilly documentary objectivity.
Its focal character, Anna (Kathryn Worth), is a woman in her mid-40s whose husband, Alex, not shown in the movie, decided at the last minute not to accompany her. Business obligations are the excuse for his absence. But in one of their tense, argumentative cellphone exchanges, we gather that they have had a serious domestic squabble.
If you have ever felt like a guest in a holiday paradise who doesn’t fit in, “Unrelated” is a movie to make you squirm. Heaven can seem like hell if you don’t feel as if you belonged there. The hostess, Verena (Mary Roscoe), is an old school friend of Anna’s, but the two have drifted apart, and Verena, who has two teenage children and a stepson by her second husband, is mildly annoyed that Anna didn’t give her advance notice of Alex’s change of plans.
Ms. Worth gives a courageous, naked performance of a lonely, childless, middle-aged married woman in the early throes of menopause who has many regrets. At loose ends socially, she attaches herself to the members of the rowdy younger contingent as they party noisily while consuming copious amounts of booze and pot and refer to people of their parents’ generation as “the olds.”
The first film directed by Ms. Hogg, “Unrelated,” released in Britain in 2008 and shown here for the first time, announced the debut of a significant writing and directing talent. Her more abstract and even chillier third film, “Exhibition,” recently opened in Manhattan. As in “Exhibition,” Ms. Hogg casts a cold eye on the manners of the British upper middle class at play. Except for their accents, these people are identical to a certain class of spoiled, supercilious New Yorkers who exude a smug sense of entitlement.
The leader of the younger set, Oakley (Tom Hiddleston), is the handsome, arrogant, curly-haired son of Verena’s cousin, George (David Rintoul), a macho rage-aholic with whom Oakley has a combative relationship. When their mutual hostility explodes late in the movie, we don’t see the fight, which takes place inside the house, but we overhear it, as do the other characters, who lounge by the pool, wincing with embarrassment.
Oakley, all too aware of his attractiveness, subtly encourages Anna to put the moves on him without intending to follow through. And the scenes of the besotted older woman playing up to this sleek, disdainful tomcat with a desperately hopeful smile on her face are almost too painful to watch.
Both the camera work, which observes the vacationers from a middle distance, and the sound design, which makes much of the dialogue seem overheard, contribute to the film’s air of studied detachment, as if Ms. Hogg were looking from afar with a raised eyebrow. This is civilized human behavior captured with a clinical precision and accuracy.
1.55GB | 1 h 36 min | 1016×572 | mkv