Unrelated (15

4.00

Tuscan temptation

This coolly intelligent British film from first-time director Joanna Hogg investigates a class of people that may get on your nerves, but its assured style and emotional restraint are still likely to get under your skin. The last film I can recall on the subject of Brits holidaying in Tuscany is Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty, which was enough to make me hope there wouldn't be another. One felt that the postcard sunsets, ravishing light, and Sienese countryside were being wasted on people so self-absorbed.

Like the Bertolucci film, Unrelated introduces an outsider into a group already well-settled into the holiday routine. But, instead of the coltish 19-year-old Liv Tyler, the newcomer is a fortysomething Englishwoman, Anna (Kathryn Worth), trailing a suitcase on wheels and a troubled relationship. The intermittent calls she makes to her (unseen) partner back in London come to feel about as relaxing as a wasp around a panini. She arrives at the rented Tuscan villa of her friends at night, late enough for her hosts to have gone to bed. Their teenage children are obliged to interrupt their poolside boozing and offer her a welcome.

Hogg's narrative approach is so unhurried one keeps wondering what she is holding back. The answer is not that much, at least in terms of action; what she offers instead is a richly nuanced psychological portrait of a woman at life's crossroads, hopeful of one more adventure and yet fearful that she has missed her moment. It turns out that Anna has rather drifted apart from her old schoolfriend Verena (Mary Roscoe) and her husband George (David Rintoul), but she does make a connection with "the kids", particularly the raffish, good-looking Oakley (Tom Hiddleston), an Eton boy with all the swagger of one born to it. A bond is formed across the generations. He knows Anna would rather drink wine with him than gargle on Negronis with his parents – "the olds", as he calls them – and she instinctively pals up with him on their day out at the Campo and among the humbug pillars of Siena cathedral.

Worth brings the right air of uncertainty to Anna, caught between the obligations to her contemporaries and the exhilarating mischief of the youth. Attractive without being a stunner, she's still in good shape and senses her own allure. At first it's a matter of sidelong glances. Then she goes skinny-dipping in the pool late at night, where Oakley and his brother Archie (Harry Kershaw) and their mate Charlie (Michael Hadley) gaze at her as if she were a sea-nymph rising from the waves.

Her first "grown-up" conversation with Oakley touches alarmingly on her own undisclosed issues back home: "Long-term relationships aren't easy – they're a challenge". A batsqueak of sexual possibility pierces the air, only to be politely but summarily dismissed. It's the entirely casual nature of the brush-off that feels so accurate. Anna, waiting for a sign, has perhaps misread the whole situation, and you can almost feel the chill in her bones as she realises how thoroughly she has been kidded – or been kidding herself.

The Rohmer-like atmosphere of romantic fancy dissolves very suddenly, and the film, metaphorically speaking, goes from summer to autumn in a moment.

Once again Anna has to reassess her position as interloper, and the choice she makes in exacting a, perhaps unconscious, revenge on Oakley backfires badly. A minor car accident, kept secret from the parents, is brought to light, and Oakley's involvement in it causes a tumultuous shouting match between him and his father, not seen, but heard at full volume, by the rest of them as they lounge by the pool.

The family idyll seems to fray, and Anna finds herself marginalised by agonising degrees. The film illustrates this in subtle compositions, with Anna lagging behind on walks, ignored like a wallflower at a locals' lunch-party, and then quite invisible to the children when she's dispatched to fetch them from an upstairs room – at the top of a staircase she sees them all with their backs turned, gazing out of windows as at a future that specifically excludes her.

What makes her plight somehow more poignant is the sultry Italian atmosphere enveloping her. Oliver Curtis's photography renders the blue-black nightscapes, bloodshot horizons and glamorously shaded interiors a place which Anna at last finds too beautiful to bear; she flees to an anonymous chain hotel where she can nurse her misery undistracted. The manner in which the screenplay eventually discloses her emotional distress is probably the weakest passage of the whole film: something previously guessed at, in silences and gestures and even just faces caught in profile, becomes something too literally explained. It's not that we don't believe her, merely that those subtle gradations and flickers of feeling held a more lifelike ambiguity.

Unrelated is an accomplishment, all the same. With its overlapping conversations and contemplative moods, it feels significantly different from the British mainstream, clogged with romantic comedies, mockney gangster flicks and period adaptations. It is not only its setting that aligns it with European cinema; it has to do with the luminous sense of space and the stillness of the camera.

If Hogg can render the travails of a bunch of middle-class British holidaymakers a subject of interest, there's reason to hope she has some career in the making.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Kristin Scott Thomas outside the Royal Opera House before the ceremony (Getty)
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Channel 4's Indian Summers
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager