Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 2007. Raw Siena. Screenplay by Joanna Hogg. Cinematography by Oliver Curtis. Produced by Barbara Stone. Production Design by Stephane Collonge. Costume Design by Stéphane Collonge. Film Editing by Helle le Fevre.
Anna comes to a villa in Tuscany where her best friend Verena is summering with her family, arriving alone and telling everyone that her partner Alex didn’t join her because he’s busy with work. The days pass in sunny, heat-stifled idle and Anna has an awkward time trying to catch up with Verena while being drawn more to Verena’s children and their cousin Oakley (Tom Hiddleston in his film debut). Confident and rascally, Oakley is far too young for Anna’s company but she can’t help but be pulled into his mysteriously confident orbit, and as their mostly wordless exchanges progress and Anna’s phone calls home increase in their negative tone, it becomes clear that her partner Alex didn’t stay home because of work but because they needed some time apart, and that Oakley’s appeal is in part due to his reminding her of what life could have been. When Anna takes part in a wild night that results in wrecking a borrowed car, her tenuous place as an adult having fun at the kids’ table is threatened by her having to tell her best friend the truth of what happened and, in doing so, betraying the young peoples’ confidence. Joanna Hogg’s debut is an acutely observed character piece that has its element all exactly correct, placing Anna alone in a series of static long shots that see her surroundings both dwarf her in her loneliness but also give her a sense of possibility as well, while the humorous, off-hand way that she treats the relationship between Anna and Oakley reflects this ambivalence by allowing the main character to be both romantically taken and feel ridiculous at the same time. Hogg’s powerful command of ellipsis denies us a lot of exposition but there’s always just enough for the story to feel fully comprehensible, and the performances are all superb.