Crossing Europe Film Festival

LINZ, Austria -- British cinema has forever been preoccupied with issues of class, but it's been some time since such matters were examined with the piercing accuracy that makes "Unrelated" so bracing. It's a terrific, belated feature debut from writer-director Joanna Hogg after an extended small-screen apprenticeship that's clearly honed her talents. A must for festivals, it could also find a distribution niche in upscale arthouses worldwide. Certainly, this perfectly-realized, shoestring-budgeted miniature quietly but clearly heralds the arrival of an exciting "new" talent.

The setting is Tuscany, for decades the playground of well-heeled Brits abroad. Holidaying in a costly opulent villa near Siena are fortysomething couple Verena (Mary Roscoe) and Charlie (Michael Hadley), plus various offspring, relations and friends. Into this group tiptoes Verena's longtime best pal, mousy Anna (Kathryn Worth), who's escaping a relationship crisis, plus more general mid-life woes. No longer as intimate with Verena as before, Anna gravitates towards the party's younger members and becomes smitten with flaxen-haired, twentyish Oakley (Tom Hiddleston), leading to predictably unfortunate consequences.

Working fluently in digital-video, Hogg achieves remarkable results with the most minimal of means. Camerawork and editing are consistently on the money, while performances and dialogue feel utterly fresh, spontaneous and believable. The film simultaneously makes the audience identify totally with Anna's predicament, while also maintaining a detachment that allows us to observe the precise dynamics of the situations she stumblingly navigates. The sharpness of Hogg's ear for speech and eye for behavior is evident throughout, resulting in characters whose verisimilitude is disturbingly convincing, and whose interactions have an organic, almost documentary feel.

Production company: Raw Siena Limited
Cast: Kathryn Worth, Tom Hiddleston, Mary Roscoe, David Rintoul, Henry Lloyd-Hughes.
Director/screenwriter: Joanna Hogg.
Producer: Barbara Stone.
Director of photography: Oliver Curtis.
Production designer: Stephane Collonge.
Editor: Helle le Fevre.
Sales: Raw Siena, London
No MPAA rating, 100 minutes.