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.