Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Film Review: Hinterland (2015)

When you’re younger, the relationships you have feel like they’re going to last forever.  Your first proper boyfriend/girlfriend feels like your soul mate and your BFFs seem like they will be with you for life.  And when you inevitably drift apart from someone that you used to love, can you ever reunite and recapture what made you so close in the first place?  This profound question is the heart of writer/director Harry McQueen’s debut film Hinterland.

Harvey (McQueen) and Lola (Lori Campbell), two young Londoners who have been friends forever, decided to reunite after her long spell travelling the world to go for a weekend away in his parent’s house in Cornwall.  That is the entire plot, and it's utterly gripping...

Even though their relationship is platonic, they have an achingly realistic sexual tension between them, especially from Harvey (that to watch as a male viewer with a lot of female friends is painfully familiar at times).  The dialogue and the performances are so tender and natural that it feels at times as if you’re witnessing a really cinematic home-movie.

As Harvey drives around London, there are a series of jump cuts (a reference to the driving scenes from A Bout De Souffle) with different Radio 4 discussions about financial inequality and £30k student debt, which then becomes the squeal of emergency services sirens familiar to anyone who has lived in the capital.  Both serve to suggest an ominous tone for the upcoming holiday romance, but to also reflect the anxiety that surrounds us all these days.  Even the simplest stories of love and friendship are enveloped in a wider backdrop of unease that can only be escaped by leaving the chatter of the capital and escaping to the countryside.

Harvey’s fondness for the radio also foreshadows a beautiful scene where the two friends find their childhood walkie-talkies and take them to their separate bedrooms to continue their conversation right up until the moment they sleep, without having to share a bed.  How many modern relationships rely on this form of technological intimacy?  The fact that they use walkie-talkies instead of iPhones fits with the nostalgic aesthetic of the film, but the implication is the same.  It is just as honest as if they were using Whatsapp or Facebook messenger…

The film was written and directed by McQueen, so clearly the story is told through Harvey’s viewpoint towards Lola – even though once the road trip begins they share perfectly equal screen time, and the film actually ends primarily on her.  Therefore Lola is framed slightly more as the object of desire for the audience, especially when she serenades Harvey with her music (Lori Campbell is a folk singer/songwriter in real life), which is actually really sweet.  If at any point the viewer didn’t believe that they had been lifelong friends then the narrative could easily feel sentimental and empty, yet at no point did I doubt that they had both shared the intimacy of puberty and adolescence together: a directorial and acting achievement.

If a time traveller from either chronological direction appeared before you and asked what life were like for directionless, middle-class, English millennials in coalition-era Britain (admittedly a niche question) it would save a lot of time and description to simply show them Hinterland.

HINTERLAND is in cinemas and on demand 27 February

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