In Review: Hinterland (2015)

by Tony Griffiths on 25/02/2015


Awkward boy meets kooky girl: a permanently rocky fixture in cinema’s romantic repertoire. Not to suggest that there isn’t mileage in the dynamic, just that you’re going to have to work extra hard to avoid the increasingly distinctive whiff of cliché. Sadly, there is an aroma that Hinterland, the beautifully shot yet emotionally stunted debut feature from up-and-coming British actor Harry Macqueen, can’t quite escape.

Friends since childhood, Harvey (Macqueen) and Lola (Lori Campbell) have drifted apart following the latter’s move abroad. So when Lola returns home to deal with a family misfortune, Harvey offers to help wile away her worries with a nostalgic weekend trip to the seaside cottage they knew growing up. It’s a road movie but without much road.

Hinterland’s inherent sense of disillusionment and loneliness is designed not only as the motivation for the main pairing but the baggage for its recession-era audience. That’s all well and good. But when a film lives and dies on the authenticity of its central relationship, that dynamic better be up to the harshest of scrutinies, and in Harvey and Lola’s case, something just doesn’t quite sit right. And not in the way Macqueen intends.

First-time actress Campbell (a musician by trade) makes for a likeable Lola with some help from a script built on improvisations, but Macqueen’s Harvey is infinitely harder to appreciate. His perpetually furrowed brow and lingering looks to the horizon make him less complex anti-hero, more wet blanket.

The real star then is the wild and windy Cornish coast, and where Macqueen the director – no small thanks to cinematographer Ben Hecking – really comes into his own. The desolate beauty is masterfully rendered onscreen, Macqueen’s camera static, framing the rugged landscape and giving it license to bellow and breathe.

However, from uncomfortable interactions to misfiring moments of humour, the spark – no matter how distant – remains elusive. While it’s clear the pair have grown apart, there’s little to explain why the friendship worked in the first place. We’re told it worked. But we don’t really feel it.

Maybe that’s the point. Which is a shame, because the film’s final few scenes are when Hinterland nearly hits its stride. Had the central relationship been drawn in a more engaging way it may well have yielded the payoff Macqueen so clearly had in mind.

Tony has awarded Hinterland two Torches of Truth


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