Film review - Hinterland

Harry Macqueen’s impressive directorial debut, Hinterland (2014), which he also scripts and stars in together with folk singer Lori Campbell follows two childhood friends who reconnect in their late twenties and go on a road trip to Cornwall. Lola (Campbell) is back in London after working for some years in America as a singer-musician. Harvey (Macqueen) picks her up in London and drives her to his family’s holiday home where they had spent much of their youth. Over one weekend they try to capture some of their childlike exuberance for simple pleasures. They take a boat trip, attempt to fish, walk along the windswept Cornish coast (it’s February and desolate), sit around a fire, talk and drink.

It soon becomes apparent that Harvey is in love with Lola. Less clear are her true feelings for him. We learn that Lola only returned because her father has left her mother for another woman. She is nonchalant about her career and her cynicism about relationships is reinforced by her father’s desertion. Often Ben Hecking’s camera just rolls, seamlessly capturing the characters’ shifting, but unspoken, emotions and, in particular, Harvey’s inner turmoil. The closes up of Harvey and Lola are beautifully contrasted with the exterior shots of London’s iconic sites, the desolate moors (complete with ponies) and narrow country lanes leading to the windswept coast and roiling sea.

Macqueen has been likened to Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, Red Road) but there’s also more than a passing nod to Mike Leigh in his use of social realism and Hinterland’s political resonance and improvisational quality. Macqueen’s attention to detail is also memorable. Before we even see the characters we learn something about them from the mise-en-scène. Hinterland opens with the ringing of a phone. The camera pans around Harvey’s home – on a piece of paper stuck above a messy desk are the words “We are the children of Ayn Rand and Margaret Thatcher”. In his calendar the name “Lola” is scrawled and underscored. As he drives into London, the radio debate about the problems faced by twenty-somethings, newly out of university, unable to afford a mortgage and with an overwhelming debt to pay off, root us firmly in time and place.

Hinterland is low budget, just 78 minutes long, the performances are deliberately understated and nothing very much happens. But it is clear that a lot of love and care has gone into the film’s composition. It is some measure of the two central performances, Hecking’s cinematography, Alice Petit’s editing and Macqueen’s tight scripting that the film conveys so much in such a short time.

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HINTERLAND is in cinemas and on demand 27 February