Hinterland film review – A minimal and atmospheric debut

Hinterland is a film about the uncertainties of and insecurities experienced by youth, focusing on today’s young generation.

Hinterland tells the story of two childhood friends, Lola (played by Lori Campbell) and Harvey (played by Harry Macqueen), who go on a weekend trip back to a seaside cottage where they spent their childhood.

Through the simple and sparse dialogue, we learn that musician Lola has just returned from America, and is living in a friend’s run-down London flat. Heartbroken from her parents’ separation, she opens up to Harvey about repulsion of the idea of having to settle down. Harvey, meanwhile, is trying to become a professional writer. He lives with his mum and pays off his bills with part time work, photocopying for a publishing house. Both are experiencing the difficulties of living in the city, at the beginning of their careers. Reunited on their trip, after a seemingly long time apart, Lola and Harry find that their old friendship provides comfort. As the film develops, their friendship becomes more intimate and aspects of their personalities and differences are revealed.

There is much to admire here. Hinterland, a nostalgic art house film, has lots to offer in its atmosphere. As a micro-budget debut from young actor-director Macqueen, this is a technically sophisticated work. The gentle score works flawlessly with the processed old cine-film style colours, creating a wistful, dreamy aura for the film. The settings range from the streets of London to English moorland and seaside. Ben Hecking’s thoughtful and mature cinematography successfully presents the beauty of British landscape and adds new resonance scenes that might be familiar to the audience. There are some beautiful shots here — the back of Lola’s neck when she ties her hair, a wood at sunset, birds flying into the clouds, light flickering on the surface of the sea — which all contribute to the film’s artistic ambience.

Campbell’s portrayal of Lola is a few steps short of maturity. However, as a musician in real life, a scene that occurs just before the climax of the film in which she sings in front of a bonfire is one of the most enjoyable moments in the film. Her voice is pleasantly folksy, calming and soothing. Macqueen’s performance is unfortunately weak. Introversion is a common trait of male figures in romantic films but, in this case, Macqueen’s attempt at introversion (plus the very limited dialogue) results in the character being hidden by lack of context, of detail and of expression.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that can be taken from Hinterland is what it tells us about youth. Here we have a film about finding oneself in the world, something that has always applied, and continues to apply to every generation. In previous decades this ‘finding oneself’ has typically taken form of self-assurance and rebellion (punk, for example). Yet the generation we see in Hinterland, is more embodied by an uncertainty, a longing for safety and a disillusionment with society and life. The film demonstrates the conservative nature of today’s youth; the trip to the cottage, for example, represents a longing for childhood, simplicity and safety rather than any journey into the unknown. What is considered as rebellious in the film is Lola’s rejection of marriage, but this, too, is a result of disillusionment, owing much to her feeling of sadness at her parent’s separation; she hasn’t rejected the institution, she has lost faith in it.

In interviews, Macqueen has said that the film seeks to touch on social issues affecting his generation. In places this ambition falls short. The dialogue, which should be a feature of a film that doesn’t focus on plot, is weak. However, the tone Macqueen achieves does carry his message; the characters are uneasy, longing for security and hindered, in the pursuit of their dreams, by social reality. In this sense Macqueen has succeeded in making a film for and by today’s generation.

Hinterland film review by Yunhan Fang

HINTERLAND is in cinemas and on demand 27 February



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