Archipelago

The understated and arresting landscape of the Isles of Scilly provide the perfect backdrop to Archipelago.

With the patience and precision of a documentarian tracking natural phenomena, director Joanna Hogg shows how years of unarticulated tension and resentment can erupt from beneath their crust of manners over a few explosive days.

Edward arrives on the island of Tresco for one last family holiday before he leaves for eleven months of volunteering in Africa. A network of brittle tensions branch through their well-appointed rental cottage – witnessed by the cook and painting teacher hired to facilitate the trip.

With each organised picnic and excursion, the family's battle to endure each other's company becomes tougher, as if they're challenging themselves on an episode of Holiday Showdown

Having trapped the family within the hermetically sealed cottage, Hogg takes a scalpel to the manners and class customs that define their world.  

The pall of desperation is gradually notched up by phone calls from the absent father who is always on his way and never arriving.

With each unhurried scene, Archipelago is more excruciating and more mercilessly gripping.

But among all this is defiant tenderness.

Hogg punctuates her film with simple, striking shots of Tresco’s natural surroundings, suggesting the steady pulse of life that surrounds the family: a less fraught world to which they may be able to assimilate themselves.

Gentle wisdom is provided in Christopher, the painting teacher, whose patience with his trying pupils is unexpectedly moving.

Archipelago captures the longevity of family life in its interstitial phase, as children and parents alike are renegotiating their identities.

The family squirm, struggle, and eventually evolve, as if permanently caught in one of Hogg's unforgivingly long-held static shots.

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