I suppose you might say if Unmade Beds is more resemblant of anything, then it is of a final year student's concluding major piece at the back end of their filmmaking course; the moment when everything they've learnt, picked up and observed along the way to now formulates together to create something to take away with themselves post-graduation. The piece as a whole teeters on a brink separating that reaction you have when you admire the energy and motivation that has gone into producing such a film with just coming away from it somewhat infuriated at its flaws and cheap tricks. Take the instance in which one of the more dopier, or at least dopier sounding, supporting characters brings to our awareness the duality he believes he shares with another young man whom he's taken in for the duration of the film: he establishes a sharing sense of duel-existence more broadly linked to that of not really being able to make that move across a proverbial line, and commit oneself to dealing with a problem - and that either of their respective problems reflect one another's. "Don't jump until you're able to jump" the supporting act says; moments as such, apart from the fact very rarely is there any link or connection at all if the characters within the piece must verbally illustrate that there is, places the film out on a line knowing full well there will be those that'll scoff at such items or might actually be drawn into appreciation.
The film follows two differing people on separate strands, frizzy haired Axl (Tielve) is one of them; a Spaniard from Madrid (where else in Spain?) whom has arrived in a more down-trodden part of London (where else in England?) in order to seek out his father who left both he and his mother when he was an infant. Meanwhile, Belgian (what, not French?) young-adult Vera (François) is already based in said city and goes from day to day seeking out new male partners whilst seemingly trying to battle past-mental illness. Whilst depicting these two people and their stories; the early exchanges are punchuated by these voice-overs, the sorts of voice-overs in which the mouths of the artists have been barely centimetres away at the time of recording and of which carry these terribly hushed, self-aware, throaty and self-important tones.
Axl's arrival sees him fall in with a spaced out crowd, the sort of sub-culture that, and due to my own prejudices, I usually zone out of fairly quickly when depicted on film. The people, headed up by native Londoner Mike (Goldberg), are a droopy, drippy, hippie lot; the sorts of people whom smoke drugs, have spaced out conversations, get drunk, have cereal for lunch and attend nightclubs playing host to the sorts of bands whose members usually have hair down to their shoulders and play that biting variety of 'bad' music which isn't quite rock but isn't really pop although just seems to be embedded within the lives of people aged between 19 and 25. On the other strand is Vera, a book shop worker more preoccupied, it seems, with talking male customers out of purchasing books, thus supposedly hinting early on at respective elements of power she has over men. In short, we do not like Vera and we do not come to like her; an early sequence back at the humble surroundings she calls home seeing her move Polaroid pictures of particular men from her wall before boxing them up, labelling them and shelving them with many other boxes of such an ilk thus suggesting a track record of such activity. Her latest in anonymous lays, whom she targets and gets to know before bedding them, comes in the form of a gentleman her age whom works at the airport's security branch on the X-ray machine, and is played by Dutch actor Michiel Huisman.
Her psychological condition of effectively bedding these anonymous men and storing records of such actions, in what appears a cocktail of nymphomania and OCD, is made only more glaring later on when she speaks of her once-childhood tendencies to branch out into schizophrenia; dialogue of which sees her speak of a one-time imaginary boyfriend hinting at that very item. There is no broader study of any greater substantial ilk to do with mental illness, nor, far more alarmingly, is there enough of a sense of there being a substantial enough demonisation of the actions Vera engages in to warrant any sort of praise; specifically in regards to that of anonymous sex, something which needs to be addressed with the utmost care on screen if it is indeed to be explored at all. On occasion, the film's over exuberance to shoot the scenes of a sexual nature in a very loving, highly eroticised manner has it veer perilously close to that of mere pornography without ever coming close to tackling the crux of its matters.
The film's bravery or sensations of more majestic ilk that it is, in fact, about more than first appears rings false; the item of Vera and Axl being foreign is a misdemeanour: it is irrelevant and exists purely to have the film come across as something depicting something else with greater competence. One's mind darts back to 2005's Brick Lane as a film actually depicting life as a London-based immigrant in a complete and thorough fashion, Axl and Vera here might just as well be British. Unmade Beds is a wily effort, ambitious in its tone and general look as it depicts people rummaging through the lower echelons of a big city attempting to find a collative peace with one's self and life situation; but it is all too nettlesome and all too galling all too often to truly get behind without sort of wanting to wish all of those involved the best of luck with future projects.