Archipelago

"Excellent"

Archipelago Review


A gruelling exploration of middle class angst, this observant film tells its story in a minimalistic, abstract way that may be frustrating for some filmgoers. But it'll chill most audiences to the bone.

A family gathers at its usual holiday home on the Isles of Scilly. Patricia (Fahy) is happy to have her adult children Edward and Cynthia (Hiddleston and Leonard) together, and she's annoyed that her husband's work has prevented him from joining them. Clearly he's the glue in this family, because the other three have almost nothing to talk about, and they find it easier to interact with a painter neighbour (Baker) and the cook (Lloyd) who's taking care of them.

As with her previous film Unrelated, Hogg infuses the interaction with awkward pauses and telling glances that are blackly funny. The static camera work lets us explore the dynamic between the characters in aching detail as they put obstacles and space between each other. There are a lot of grim smiles and non sequitur kindnesses, and the only impassioned dialog is heard through closed doors - arguments, foul-mouthed rants, bitter observations.

In other words, this isn't a hugely easy film to watch. This isn't because of the nasty tension between these people: it's because we see ourselves so vividly in everything they do and say. Even though it's a privileged middle class family, the dynamic is all too recognisable. The key theme is that we can't pick our family members, and although we can't help but love them dearly, we don't always want to spend a week in a house with them.

The cast hit every note impeccably, underplaying scenes and delivering dialog with a hesitant, strained authenticity that makes it feel improvised. Each relationship has a specific connection, both positive and negative, and Hogg's unfussy filmmaking lets us read between the lines. Working with gifted cinematographer Ed Rutherford, she captures scenes with muted yet vivid light and colour, which beautifully echoes in the stark landscapes.

While the film essentially has no plot, and nothing really happens, it's the jagged observations that tell the story. Watching Edward squirm in the face of criticism (both overt and backhanded) about his life choices is unnervingly honest. And in the end, we realise that this impressionistic film is just as telling as the painters' canvasses.



Archipelago

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 114 mins

In Theaters: Friday 4th March 2011

Distributed by: Kino Lorber Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Joanna Hogg

Producer: Gayle Griffiths

Starring: Christopher James Baker as Artist, Kate Fahy as Patricia, as Edward, Andrew Lawson as Head Gardener, Lydia Leonard as Cynthia, Amy Lloyd as Rose, Mike Pender as lobster fisherman

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