Brit director Joanna Hogg’s latest features a dapper estate agent played by the god of mischief himself, Tom Hiddleston. Dark worlds? Hogg’s movies are full of them.
In her earlier films, Unrelated and Archipelago, Hogg anatomised repressed tensions between posh relatives abroad. Her third is an equally pointed, acutely acted exploration of reticence. But the location is a London home and the subject is the unease created by a lack of family.
A discomforting sense of voyeurism sets in as Hogg uses odd camera angles to introduce D (Viv Albertine) and H (LiamGillick), a mid-life couple who work from a designer home.
He’s an architect and she’s an artist, but other issues divide them. He communicates his sex needs by intercom while they work in separate offices. H wants to know what D is working on; D worries H will belittle her. When they decide to sell their home, the pending upheaval threatens to expose the fissures.
As D strikes curious art-dance poses, masturbates and escapes from dinner dates, the after-effects of some unstated past trauma are carefully suggested.
These subtle currents gain traction from non-professional casting: conceptual artist Gillick makes no-nonsense work of the curt H, but it’s the sight of former punk extrovert Albertine in an introverted role that strikes the quietest ‘off’ note.
Despite leaning towards over-stylisation, Hogg’s studied images capture the tension of a precarious relationship. The restraint makes every minor eruption roar: arguments outside and sound-mix rumbles inside (H’s office door is a third player in the partnership) speak volumes.
True, Hogg humanises the set-up with ripples of warmth, but it’s her evocation of a horror-style psychodrama through hints of domestic disquiet that lingers with you. Even Loki would feel on edge in this haunted home.
Hogg’s third film mounts a dead-on study of disconnection. You wouldn’t know the leads are non-pros: Gillick and Albertine nail all the fine details of a push-pull dynamic with magnetic precision.