Archipelago (15)

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The View Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/10/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Sharply observed and impressively directed, writer-director Joanna Hogg's follow-up to Unrelated is an engaging and often excruciating drama with superb performances from its four leads.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Joanna Hogg, Archipelago stars Tom Hiddleston as Edward, a young man who accompanies his doting mother Patricia (Kate Fahy) and his sister Cynthia (Lydia Leonard) on a family holiday in the Scilly Isles, where they expect to be joined by their father. Also with them is Rose (Amy Lloyd), a young woman who's been employed to cook for them in the holiday home they've rented, but her presence only seems to add to the increasing tension within the family.

The Good
Hiddleston (who was Oakley in Hogg's debut feature Unrelated) is excellent as a young man wrestling with the big decision he's just taken (he's about to head off on a volunteer trip to Africa) and whose middle-class guilt leads him to attempt an awkward friendship with Lloyd's quietly understated Rose. Lydia Leonard is equally good as Cynthia, who's obviously angry and resentful about something, though we never quite find out what it is.

The script is excellent, with naturalistic dialogue that will be painfully familiar to anyone who's ever endured a family event where everyone's nerves are frazzled: Cynthia's frequent sarcastic digs at Edward are particularly effective, as are Patricia's attempts to hastily change the subject. Hogg has really made the miserable middle-class holiday genre her own and she wrings extraordinary tension out of seemingly mundane scenes, such as an excruciating sequence in an expensive restaurant where Cynthia doesn't think her food is cooked properly and asks to speak to the chef.

In addition, Hogg and cinematographer Ed Rutherford get terrific use out of their striking location (the isle of Tresco) and there are some extremely impressive storm scenes (presumably real, since one can't imagine Hogg's budget stretching to CGI effects sequences).

The Bad
The main problem with Archipelago is that it doesn't quite deliver the emotional punch you're expecting (especially if you've seen the very similar Unrelated), perhaps because the focus is divided equally between each of the four leads. As a result you're never quite sure which of them you're meant to be sympathising with and never really emotionally invest in any of them as a result.

Worth seeing?
Archipelago is a sharply observed, impressively directed and superbly acted drama that confirms Hogg's promise as an emerging new voice in British cinema. Recommended.

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Archipelago (15)
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Content updated: 26/09/2015 08:08

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