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Stars: Christopher Baker, Kate Fahy, Tom Hiddleston, Lydia Leonard, Amy Lloyd, Mike Pender, Andrew Lawson, Leigh Baker, Alanah Sheppard, Alan Hewitt, Will Ash, Paul Christopher, Ian Chesterman, Michael Foster, David Hamilton, Jon Taylor, Steve Parkes, Keely Brooker, Anita Bujansky, Gabriel Bujansky, Julian McCurdy

Director: Joanna Hogg

‘Archipelago’, claims the press notes, “is a quietly devastating portrayal of a family in emotional crisis”. The on-screen crisis, for me however, was having to watch good acting go to waste thanks to a flat screenplay and equally uninvolving direction.

I cannot recommend this anaesthetic drama highly enough – to insomniacs, that is, who should be rapidly soothed into slumber by writer-director Hogg’s ill-lit drama (the interiors, in particular, are as drab and ill-defined as much of the dialogue and psychological motivations of the middle-class characters created by Hogg). Yes, they are certainly ‘realistic’ in the sense of standard cinema creations, but they also emerge as characters you would pay handsomely to avoid in real life despite some commendable (especially in the circumstances) but mostly rather too theatrical acting. Spending nigh on two hours with them on their holiday in the Scilly Isles was for me an experience that easily rates as entertaining as the last time I suffered a long session of root canal work at the dentist.

Doubtless the film will be hailed as ‘art’ in those quarters where ‘art’ equates to dramatic tedium and minimal audiences. Wait for it on DVD where you will welcome the fast-forward button or on television where a quick flick of a remote will take you to another channel.

Alan Frank

UK 2010. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye. Colour.
114 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Mar 2011