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New Release Review - Exhibition

A couple find their relationship strained when they put their London townhouse up for sale.

Directed by: Joanna Hogg
Starring: Viv Albertine, Liam Gillick, Tom Hiddleston


Married couple D (Albertine) and H (Gillick), both conceptual artists, have lived in their distinctive London town house for the entirety of their marriage. Fed up of inner city life (the house seems to be located on the noisiest street in England), H has made the decision to put the property up for sale, a decision D isn't happy about yet goes along with regardless. In the final weeks before a buyer is found, D and H find their relationship becoming increasingly strained, fueled largely by D's resentment over never having children.
A house is not a home without children is the theme of British director Joanna Hogg's third feature. It's not a sentiment shared by Hogg's male protagonist, H, played by Liam Gillick, himself a conceptual artist in the real world. His wife, D (Albertine), however, is coming to this realization late in life, too late. Whether their lack of children is the result of a mutual agreement or a physical inability is never made clear but either way it becomes clear that D resents her partner for it.
H's decision to sell their home seems to be the latest of many he's taken upon himself to make for the couple. D is too timid to admit how much she wants to remain there and spends her final weeks literally embracing her home, deriving a physical pleasure from the furnishings her husband seems no longer able to provide. One night, while H is away on a trip, she roams the building, opening and closing every door she comes across, as though playing hide and seek with the ghosts of the children she never had. Most of the couple's communication occurs through the home's intercom system, both barely able to face one another at this point in their relationship.
Hogg's technique, static shots, often framing her characters through the exterior windows of the townhouse, recalls the cold distance of early Haneke, but it's an approach that requires performances more convincing than those she mines from her two leads, both of whom are new to acting. Albertine and Gillick seem all too conscious of the camera's presence, which makes it difficult to get inside their heads. With stronger leads, particularly in the role of D, who appears in almost every frame of Hogg's film, this would have been far more gripping than the mere curiosity piece it currently is. 
6/10


Eric Hillis

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