Director: Tom Geens
Cast: Paul Higgins, Kate Dickie, Jerome Kircher
Watch Couple in a Hole online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / We Are Colony / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Couple in a Hole is a film that does what it says on the tin – a couple goes and lives in a hole. You know exactly what you’re getting for your money.
When we first meet John (Higgins) and Karen (Dickie), they’re already an established part of the forest landscape. Somewhere in the French Pyrenees, they live a simple life of routine: he goes out to forage for food; she stays in and munches on worms. But there’s nothing routine about all of this, a fact that writer-director Tom Geens leaves to simmer, unaddressed, underneath the surface.
And we witness a curious look at survival within a remote existence – one that proves simultaneously unsettling and strangely normal. That’s largely down to the performances by Dickie and Higgins, whose marriage is immediately believable, each visibly concerned and caring for the other.
When Karen is bitten by a spider, though, John has to find help from the nearby village, an act that puts him in contact with normal humans for the first time in, well, a long time. A tentative friendship with helpful farmer Andre (Kircher) develops, a relationship that Geens observes with wonderfully primitive detail – only half able to speak each other’s languages, the pair trade words, throw rocks at things and share food. But that burgeoning urge to bond with other people also starts to drive our forest-bound couple apart, as he lies to her about speaking to anyone, and push them out of hiding.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Geens teases out the details behind the couple’s reclusive lifestyle. The director’s patient pacing is hugely effective, using John’s tentative reconnection with humanity to drip-feed details of their past – only by returning to real life do these mysterious woodland figures become more rounded characters. That revealing of emotional baggage piles weight onto the story, only driving up the tension further – observations from Andre’s wife suggest that we’re set for an awkward collision between civilisation and self-isolation. The result moves from surreal tranquility to all-too-real tragedy, as the quiet soundscape of the trees gives way to the loud bangs of vehicles and hunting rifles – and the reasons one might cut oneself off from it all become painfully clear.
Couple in a Hole does exactly what it says on the tin, but it gradually peels off the lid to examine what’s inside; a poignant study of grief and love, loss and loyalty, human and animal nature. This is a moving tale told with powerful simplicity.
Couple in a Hole is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial.
Where can I watch Couple in a Hole on pay-per-view VOD?
Couple in a Hole is available in UK cinemas and on We Are Colony for £5.99, with a bunch of exclusive special features.