We saw the film Archipelago by Joanna Hogg last week. It is a low/ micro budget British Indie about a middle class family on holiday in the Isles of Scilly.
Edward arrives for a week at the house his mother and sister have rented. It’s his last holiday before he goes away as VSO to Africa. The family have stayed there every Summer, it’s like a second home to them. They await the arrival of their father, who is working in London. A missing picture on the wall hints at an unmentioned emotional story lurking under the surface.
The family have a live in cook to cater for them and the mother is learning water colour painting from an artist down the road. These extra characters create a class dynamic, and the family behave a bit like Aristo’s in a costume drama. Edward hand wrings and frets about the cook and whether his trip to Africa is the right thing. His sister is abrasive and passive aggressive to everyone. The mother is sad, detached and aloof.
The film is beautifully shot and very stylised, with everything staged in long takes in locked off master shots. The dialogue is naturalistic with lots of awkward long pauses and ‘you know’s’ chat about the weather and nothing in particular. This seemed rather strange and mannered compared to the usual kind of film or theatre dialogue. If not for this I felt the film could have worked well as a play.
Nothing much happens for the first hour and I was waiting for some big drama to occur. In the second half there were a few small dramas and then it ended. At nearly 120 minutes, it was a long film and halfway through, when I realized that nothing was going to happen, I did consider walking out. Also I wanted to punch all the characters in the face for large tracts of the film, they were so annoying, banal and self obsessed. The only character who I thought was sympathetic was the cook. Over all I wasn’t really enamoured of it and found it rather boring but Mike really enjoyed it.