Dir: Harry Macqueen. Starring: Lori Campbell, Harry Macqueen. 15 cert,78 mins
The low-budget British road movie Hinterland really ought not to be as transporting as it is. This there-and-back-again plays out in just 78 minutes, and can’t depict more than 48 hours of story time; for at least half of that duration, we’re sat in the back seat watching our driver – bottled-up late twentysomething Harvey (writer-director Harry Macqueen) – interact with the childhood friend he’s driving to the Cornish coast. Ominously, his passenger Lola (Lori Campbell) is wielding both a guitar and the kind of flappy woollen hat that usually signifies Adventures in Indie Quirk. Where do we turn off?
Stay the course, however, and you begin to notice the economy and assurance with which Macqueen’s film clocks up its emotional mileage. Contemporary radio chatter – political pointscoring, student-loan talk – suggests what these characters might be fleeing, yet their destination hardly forms an escape: windswept, depopulated and largely boarded-up, it could well have been what Morrissey had in mind upon penning “Everyday Is Like Sunday”. Gradually, Hinterland assumes the dimensions of those personal explorations more commonly ventured by young French filmmakers; the road movie, breaking up its enforced intimacy with cutaways to passing scenery, provides a fitting vehicle for this director’s concerns.
The leads’ friendly yet unusual dynamic draws us in only closer. Bathing together in their underwear, they’re more brother-sister than potential partners, which prompts noticeable regret on at least one side: Macqueen’s slow-release sigh of a performance makes you wonder whether Harvey didn’t have higher hopes. If what’s been captured here is no more than a tiny moment – a small respite or deviation from the norm – Hinterland commits entirely to inhabiting and describing it. In doing so, Macqueen maps welcome new terrain: few recent homegrown debuts have better captured the promise of fresh starts, and the disappointments that lurk in wait behind them.
Hinterland opens in selected cinemas from today.