Stars: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton
British writer-director Joanna Hogg’s latest tartly amusing take on middle-class angst, a semi-autobiographical dysfunctional love story, is her best picture to date. Byrne is Julie, an idealistic but naïve film student in early 80s London. Determined to produce something ‘authentic’, she is planning a drama feature set in depressed Sunderland. While trying to drum up some interest in her project, she meets Anthony (Burke), a louche and enigmatic older man (all slightly shabby distressed pinstriped suits and monogrammed slippers) who does something non-specific for the Foreign Office. Anthony interrogates her artistic motives while stealthily moving into her flat. An affair begins, but his constant mooching money off her means Julie has to go to her liberal, slightly scatty mother (Swinton) to ask for more. Then a chance explosive revelation at a dinner party from a comically insufferable boho filmmaker (a scene-stealing cameo from Richard Ayoade) causes Julie to question their relationship. This is a fearlessly honest bildungsroman in which Hogg dissects Julie and Anthony’s slow car crash of a relationship, against a persuasive evocation of the heady early 80s milieu where cluttered urban flats and leafy residencies ring with talk of industrial strife and the IRA. Byrne is impressive as the callow Julie, gradually gaining a sense of herself, but it’s Burke who excels as a man whose blithe exterior belies someone barely holding it together. Part 2 is already in the works.