Whenever you went on a school day trip, the best part of it was invariably time spent in the gift shop. These places were undoubtedly to blame for the countless collections of stationery tat purchased, including various rubbers, pencils and pens that subliminally created hordes of collectors-to-be, who would upgrade their desire to collect objects of more expensive tat.
Although this film has nothing do with that kind of merchandise, it does offer a similar kind of consumer warning that should be heeded.
Students usually have the right kind of credentials to plead poverty, but not so Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne); she lives in a flat in the middle of Knightsbridge that mummy (Tilda Swinton) and daddy bought for her. They’re no doubt paying for her tuition to film school that she’s about to attend to.
At a party at her flat, she meets Anthony (Tom Burke); an interesting character who claims to work for the Foreign Office, but has to keep hush-hush on the goings on there.
After getting to know each other a little better, he asks if he can move in with her for a few weeks, and she agrees. As a result, they end up coupling up, but despite this fact, Julie cannot really say that she knows that much about Anthony, a point that is proven during a cosy dinner party, when one of the guests lets slip a part of Anthony’s life that Julie was completely oblivious to.
Here is the result of a writer/director who wants to desperately prove something of herself to the world. Looking at her CV, she has directed a number of TV shows, including London Bridge, Casualty and EastEnders: Dot’s Story; they’re the kind of gigs that fledgling talent can learn the basics on, before moving on to bigger and better things. Or in Hogg’s case, this.
Despite all her best intentions, this film is the definition of tedium. It somehow manages to be simultaneously wet and dry; the characters are so drippy – Julia in particular – it’s a surprise how any of them can survive out of water. And then you have the script, which is cracker dry, sucking any signs of atmosphere out of every single scene.
Swinton Byrne, in her first starring role, struggles to convey any kind of personality whatsoever. Her performance is akin to stand-ins used by directors, who may be of a similar build to their star, just to judge technical elements of the film before they start rolling. If it wasn’t for the fact that her mother is Tilda, who appears in the film as her screen mum, it would be no surprise to learn that she was a lucky competition winner. It’s clear from this that talent is not genetic.
There are two surprises regarding this feature however: the first, is that Martin Scorsese exec produced, which can only mean that Hogg has something very juicy on him; and the other is the appearance of Richard Ayoade, without his trademark glasses and sporting some colourful highlights in his barnet, which also happen to be the only ones worth viewing throughout the entire film.
The biggest shock however is, in a curious Marvel-like post credit announcement, it declares that a sequel is to follow. With the first completely unnecessary, it feels that Hogg has over-estimated the need for more of this drivel, by quite some margin.
With none of the middle class characters worth giving a hoot for, never mind two, and the audacity the director shows by milking this whole torrid affair for over two hours, much like those gift shops on school trips, there’s nothing of any worth to be taken away here and should best be avoided.