Parents' Guide to

Archipelago

By Alistair Lawrence, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Slow-burning family drama has some language.

Movie NR 2014 114 minutes
Archipelago movie poster

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The second movie from British writer-director Joanna Hogg is a quiet study in family dynamics where repression and resentment scream silently in almost every scene. Archipelago's minimal "story" is a fly-on-the-wall observation of a short, island break that's supposed to be the official send-off for Edward (Tom Hiddleston) before he heads to Africa to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. The film's minimal dialogue and the distance at which its keeps its characters from the audience may be frustrating for some. But those who can adjust to its unhurried pace will quickly be drawn in by something else. Edward, his exhausted mother Patricia (Kate Fahy), and passive-aggressive sister Cynthia (Lydia Leonard) all appear to be carrying a very personal pain with them that they can't or won't articulate, save for a couple of explosive, one-sided rows that we hear erupt through the thin walls of their holiday home.

In lesser hands, these characters would be little more than over-privileged caricatures suffering from middle-class problems. Hogg finds a way to make her isolated and unsympathetic leads compelling, though. Hiddlestone, in particular, shines as Edward, portraying him with a fumbling lack of self-awareness. The symbolism of Archipelago's title is another ever-present. As the movie ends, the family remains like the surrounding landscape: a series of islands set in place, battered but unmoved by the elements.

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