Independent British cinema usually has that recieved formula of dryness, long silences, emotional repression and gloomy grey skies. Unrelated is almost about everything other than typical English traits, while retaining the mundane tension and angst of a British family, but swapping the grey skies for the warm summer and yellowy landscapes of Northern Italy that eventually seek to crumble the stifled emotional passion running through the families veins. Unrelated is closer to early Italian neorealism than contemporary English kitchen-sink style drama, à la Fish Tank.
Protagonist Anna (Kathryn Worth) joins an extended family as an outsider on their holiday, immediately opting to crash the rather more hedonistic holiday adventures of the teenage group rather than spend time with a close friend and the rest of the ‘olds’ (as dubbed by Oakley, played by Tom Hiddleston – the leader of the younger group and the object of Anna’s fascination). All of this, including the interest in a cocky teenage boy, we can probably assume she wouldn’t usually do. If American Beauty is the image of the male mid-life crisis, perhaps Unrelated is the female. The drama is not a shout, but a whisper. And certainly not as apocalyptic.
The significant thing about the whole film is how incredibly hard to watch it becomes, not just during one act but as a constant. Away from the pressures of home, unsatisfying jobs, school and relationships, the family are all free to be exactly who they want to be, drinking and smoking and driving into the night – transforming normal interactions into moments of extreme tension that can be sexually charged to an acute level. As less and less caution is exercised, the relaxed alcohol-laden haze of an Italian holiday takes conversation to increasingly person places in a manner that will certainly set your teeth on edge. The sexual tension – on one side a slightly older woman clearly in the middle of a frosty patch of a long term relationship, and the other side a (probably) inexperienced and sometimes obnoxious young man, is so much more interesting in that it’s left without a satisfying climax in any sense of the word. Andy Warhol once said, “Fantasy love is much better than reality love. Never doing it is very exciting. The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.”
Unrelated basically embodies this sentiment in a passionately quiet way.
Unrelated is director Joanna Hogg’s debut feature film, not that you’d notice from the singular vision and slow, static style in which it’s shot. There’s a specific, intelligent visual methodology present that you’d usually reserve for reading in the back catalogue of established directors; think Kubrick and Hitchcock. If you’ve seen her second film Archipelago, you’ll recognise the same middle/upper-class family themes interweaved with supposedly idyllic holidays, as well as the odd familiar face. Viewed side by side they are incredibly similar, and this is no bad thing. It’s a rare thing to see a director be good at something, know it and develop it.