Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Scilly Season: An Understated Portrait of a Conflicted Family Holiday Impresses Ryan Gilbey

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Scilly Season: An Understated Portrait of a Conflicted Family Holiday Impresses Ryan Gilbey

Article excerpt

Arciopelago (15)

dir: Joanna Hogg

Jean Renoir famously remarked that "a director makes only one movie in his life. Then lie breaks it into pieces and makes it again." The British writer-director Joanna Hogg appears to have skipped the "breaks it into pieces" part. She made a splash three years ago with her first film, Unrelated, the discreetly fraught study of an upper-middle class family slowly going to pieces on holiday in Italy. Now comes Archipelago, the discreetly fraught study of an upper-middle class family slowly going to pieces on holiday in the Scilly Isles. The landscape is still magnificent but the weather leaves something to be desired. A cold front of seething resentment is moving in steadily from the north.

Archipelago returns to some of the same emotional territory as its predecessor, combing for clues that may have been missed first time around. The films share a rigidly controlled visual style, as well as a rigidly controlled actor, Tom Hiddleston, who has the curly-haired fey-ness and steep Mekon forehead of the young Art Garfunkel. He plays Edward, who is about to embark on a belated gap year teaching sex education in Africa; his mention of Aids during a picnic threatens to puncture the family's bubble of privilege. His older sister Cynthia (Lydia Leonard), who communicates exclusively in sniping and indignation, wastes no time telling him what she think of his plans when Edward joins her and their mother, Patricia (Kate Fahy), in the family's holiday home. "I'm really happy for you," she says. "I'm happy you feel you can be so cavalier with your future." Well, that's the pleasantries out of the way ...

There seems a strong likelihood that the family will kvetch and begrudge one another to death. Patricia is on tenterhooks over the continually deferred arrival of her husband (Unrelated also featured, or didn't feature, an absent male on the other end of a phone line), while Cynthia is the most fascinating black hole of neurosis since Judy Davis in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives. Anyone who sends back a dish in a restaurant from this day forward will be competing with the memory of Cynthia returning what she believes is undercooked guinea fowl, all the while repeating the phrase, "This is actually quite dangerous" over and over again like a hex. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.