A young woman (Lotte Verbeek) is traveling alone through Ireland. She just separated from her partner in Amsterdam, and has no interest in connecting with the people in Ireland. She just wants to keep moving. When she stumbles upon a lonely, very remote house, she wants to stay. The house’s owner, Martin (Stephen Rea), offers her food if she works with him in his garden, which she accepts – under the condition that they will exchange no personal information.
Nothing Personal is a minimalist film that is all about living in the present, but with none of the exhilaration that usually comes with that sentiment. It’s a thoughtful film that unfolds as much after you watched it as during.
Usually, when people say that you should live in the moment, what we get is a hedonistic picture, enjoying what there is at the moment, being present, being awake and aware, not being held back by the past. With Nothing Personal, Antoniak gives us an entirely different way to think about this: Anne lives in the now, hounded by a past that seems to painful to connect to, and without any real perspective for the future. It doesn’t feel hedonistic or enjoyable, it feels like a survival strategy.
Meeting Martin, she seems to deploy the same strategy of remaining insular and unconnected to anything. That Martin’s house is on an island (or peninsula?) is the main reason she is drawn to it in the first place. But humans are not built for isolation. As much as Anne doesn’t want to connect, doesn’t want to open herself up (to get hurt again), it is impossible not to become personal with somebody you spend a lot of time with. Even if you don’t talk. Yes, this might also mean having to say good-bye, this might also mean pain, but there is just no getting around that.
The film doesn’t have much dialogue and it basically only has two actors with Verbeek and Rea (who are both great, but Verbeek especially). The camera is often very close and then very far again, as if it, too, didn’t know what the right distance to others was, just like Verbeek. And it challenges to look for clues in the small details to figure out who Anne and Martin are. They, particularly Anne, may not want to share, but you can’t keep yourself hidden that much.
When the film was over, I was a little hesitant. Did I like it? Did I connect to it? I am honestly not sure. But it definitely kept me thinking long after it was over.
Summarizing: worth seeing.