British actor Harry Macqueen (Me and Orson Welles) debuts behind the camera, writing and directing Hinterland, the short story of a weekend between two childhood friends now in their twenties. It is but a blip in the pair’s life but Macqueen has filmed it so that it seems to last a lifetime. Every tiny detail, whether it is the two walking along the beach or thinking solemnly to themselves, is captured in a light that it can be reflective of every person's own life.
Hinterland begins with clean cut shots of a bedroom with books cluttering the desk and notebooks open to scribbles of what you assume to be a student’s notes. You later find out that this is not the case. Carefully setting the scene, the film progresses from the bedroom to an empty house with a piece of music that keeps you at ease but mind, this is not the set up of a horror flick. The sequence ends in the bathroom when Harvey, played by director Macqueen, pops up at the sound of the phone ringing.
It's his mother telling him that his old friend Lola (musician Lori Campbell) has returned from her travels abroad because her parents’ relationship has broken down. Thus begins the blip in their existence that irrevocably changes their lives as they know it.
Set on the road and in the countryside away from the bustling streets of London, the film follows Harvey and Lola through a journey of self-discovery, rewinding to the past and rekindling their old friendship. It has the literal meaning of going down memory lane: there are lots of long, winding lanes that get them to the countryside.
Harvey and Lola are – in a lot of ways – polar opposites. He is a struggling writer who moved back home to concentrate more on the important things, while she wants to travel the world and see everything that her eyes could ever possibly see. They are alike in the fact that every once in a while, it’s okay for a twenty-something year old to take a step back and perhaps be a younger version of themselves once more. With these two, it’s through the use of their childhood walkie-talkies.
The passage of time is a huge factor in Hinterland. The period spent in the countryside is three days, yet the time between the two characters is timeless, ongoing, never-ending. That is how you and they secretly want it to be – to last forever.
Some of the most poignant scenes are when Harvey and Lola are together but nobody is saying anything. They sit in front of a fire outside the house and talk about their past, about relationships, about the reason that they are both in that place at that time. Nevertheless, it is the silence that builds up between them that truly shows the feelings and emotions of the characters.
Sometimes you don’t need words to say what you want to say. Another illustration of this is when they both share the bed. Lola is falling asleep but Harvey stays wide awake. The scene lasts for more than a few instants, which in any other film would be a tad excruciatingly long. But here it works: it is almost a certainty that he is thinking about Lola hence he cannot sleep.
The ending will at first be a shock. Yet, once the dust settles and you start to think of various reasons behind Macqueen's choice, you understand why, just as you understand why he chose to have such long takes of being on the road. It reflects the reality of life and of situations around us that sometimes we have no control over, whether we like it or not.
It is the middle of a story, or the beginning of another. It also portrays the world around us and how beautiful and simple life can be without the material objects that everyone seemingly needs. It is a story of innocence that is brought back into the real world when every once in a while, all we want is the fantasy and for it to stay that way a little bit longer, so that it almost feels like forever.
Hinterland is released in selected UK cinemas and on VOD from February 27th