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February 20, 2011

Unrelated (2008)
Director: Joanna Hogg
Actors: Kathryn Worth, Tom Hiddleston, Mary Roscoe

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Synopsis: An evidently troubled British woman (Kathryn Worth) comes to Tuscany to holiday with her wealthy British friends….

Review: Joanna Hogg’s Unrelated caused a minor stir when it was released back in 2008, with many British critics keen to champion it as some sort of homemade counterpart to the distinguished arthouse cinema regularly produced across Europe. With a couple of years retrospect however, the hyperbole of Unrelated‘s critical reception does now look pretty preposterous. As a piece of cinema, Unrelated‘s grammar is fairly clichéd, with Hogg exploiting her Tuscan landscape in a series of ploddingly obvious tableaux to demonstrate her central thesis about Kathryn Worth’s lead character not really fitting in with her wealthy friends – note Hogg uses the shot of Worth having a difficult telephone conversation with her (off camera) partner, while the beauty of the Tuscan countryside abounds behind her, not once or twice, but at least four or five times. The sense that Hogg is always trying to hammer home subtext makes Unrelated seem more theatrical than cinematic, with her emphasis going solely on character (it’s very much an actor’s film with the ‘improvisational’ style) and story. For critics therefore to mention Hogg in the same breath as Michael Haneke is a gross exaggeration, as Haneke is one of the great contemporary filmmakers, and his masterly control over every frame of his work is a million miles away from Hogg’s ramshackle, ‘actors workshop’ aesthetic. Unrelated‘s best calling-card is as a fairly convincing essay on British middle-class mores, as her film picks up with excruciating accuracy how this band of monied types come and colonise a beautiful foreign landscape like Tuscany over a summer with a general sense of entitlement reflected in their raffish dinner table conversations, their drinking and smoking, and their various dysfunctionalities. (February 2011)

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