Joanna Hogg's drama is an acute observation of middle class family tension
Joanna Hogg’s second feature film, and the follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut Unrelated, is a sharply observed drama of family dynamics that affirms the director as a distinct and visionary figure in British cinema.
Archipelago is set on Tresco in the Scilly Isles, where Patricia (Kate Fahy) and her two grown-up children Cynthia (Lydia Leonard) and Edward (Tom Hiddleston)are enjoying a break before Edward heads off for a year in Africa. Initially the middle-class niceties suggest that everyone is happy but gradually tensions begin to form and a more complex picture of the relationships in the family emerges.
Hogg delights in letting awkward scenarios unfold; sometimes this gives rise to moments of great humour (as in one memorable scene that takes place in a restaurant, where Cynthia insists on sending back her order and complaining to the chef, much to the discomfort of those around her), at other points the tension is raw, believable and all too recognisable.
The naturalism of Hogg’s film gradually draws its audience in, so that by its end you feel as if you too have endured this troubled family holiday. Archipelago isn’t always easy to watch, but it is honestly observed and has an emotional power that lingers.
GFT, Glasgow, Fri 4–Thu 10 Mar; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 4–Thu 17 Mar.