Archipelago (15)

Written and directed by Joanna Hogg
Screening at FACT from 11th March 2011

Reviewed by Michelle McKay

This movie is of interest almost as much for the way it was made, as for the actual story it tells. It concerns a disparate, affluent family who gather ostensibly to say farewell to their compassionate son Edward (Tom Hiddleston) who is about to do voluntary work abroad for a year.

The film is set on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, a windswept remote location where autumnal weather means picnics and painting expeditions are less than carefree, and the family are literally spending time with each other in a spacious old house trying to have a good time, but tensions come to the surface as differences of opinion arise and they are bound by the niceties of middle-class.

Director Joanna Hogg won critical acclaim for her film-making with her debut movie Unrelated, and she employs similar techniques in Archipelago. Actors are encouraged to improvise until the film runs out, and non-actors were cast in specific roles (cook, artist) to great effect. The ensemble cast lived in the house while the movie was made. Natural lighting is used to good effect too: it always seems shady inside when its sunny outside, which could be a metaphor for this movie. Attention to detail is superb, from the portmeirion crockery, to the food: quails eggs, guineafowl, pheasant; this movie is not recommended for vegetarians!

A well-observed portrayal of a strata of society who are often overlooked in contemporary cinema, but as demonstrated here can go from tepid to boiling point just like the lobster.

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