Unrelated and Archipelago

Recently I discovered 2 films by a filmmaker I had only ever briefly heard of but never seen any work by: Joanna Hogg. She is a British filmmaker who has (up to now) written and directed only two films – Unrelated and Archipelago…

Unrelated is about a 40-something woman called Anna (Kathryn Worth) who goes on holiday with her oldest friends and their family to their villa in Tuscany. Mysteriously, she has come without her husband. And when she’s there she seems to prefer to spend more time with the younger people instead of the ‘oldies’…

Archipelago is about a family coming together for one last time to a holiday home on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly before the son, Edward (Tom Hiddleston), goes away for a year to volunteer in Africa. His mother (Kate Fahy) and sister, Cynthia (Lydia Leonard), don’t seem too happy about this. The father hasn’t arrived yet for some reason and the only other person staying there is the cook they’ve hired, the quiet and helpful Rose (Amy Lloyd)…

Although both plots of these films seem completely different, when you delve deeper they have plenty of similarities. Both show snapshots of family life – in particular Archipelago – and at the heart this is what they are both about: the laughter, the love, the hatred, the arguments…

Both films are beautifully directed by Hogg, each shot looking like a painting – she has a great eye for the gorgeous landscapes on offer in both Tuscany and Tresco. There are also very few moving shots in either films, Hogg preferring to stay with the drama and let the scenes run almost like a play, making them feel all the more realistic.

Tom Hiddleston is obviously the main standout, mostly because he plays principal characters in both films: in Unrelated he is Oakley, one of the young guys who Anna bonds with on holiday – maybe because she just wants to relate to someone young again, maybe because of something more. He plays Oakley brilliantly though – one minute he’s sweet and helpful, the next he plays him as a manipulative, spoilt brat. And as Edward in Archipelago, he shows the son as a put upon individual and in certain scenes he shows a real sense of a quiet, contained anger and frustration with his family, especially his sister. Both films are also further evidence of his great acting abilities that were on show in Thor – minus the CGI obvs.

Lydia Leonard in Archipelago is also great as the bitchy sister – she plays her as snippy and self-centred and she’s a person who isn’t afraid to say what she’s thinking. The restaurant scene with her definitely sticks in your mind – she creates an incredible amount of tension with a simple and stupid act and Hogg shows a situation which nearly everyone has experienced firsthand. And a later scene with her at a dinner back at the house is also brilliant where tensions suddenly come to a head and where everyone seems to be saying one thing but meaning another.

Kathryn Worth as Anna in Unrelated is excellent too – she shows Anna as feisty one minute and then shy and embarrassed the next at being around the younger ones. She is yet another person on display in both films who cleverly keeps all her true feelings and emotions hidden, until it is all too much.

Joanna Hogg is a director who in some ways you could compare to Claire Denis who directed 35 Shots of Rum (one of my favourite films) or maybe even Mike Leigh (but with less dialogue) – films in which on the surface nothing really seems to happen, but just below there is a world of emotions and conflicts being played out.  In fact when you look closer, EVERYTHING happens. Unrelated and Archipelago are both amazing, beautiful films and both show situations which everyone whose ever had a family can relate too.


~ by square-eyed-geek on July 15, 2011.

2 Responses to “Unrelated and Archipelago”

  1. Brilliant!! Thanks for sharing these two. I feel totally enlightened as I had never heard of Joanna Hogg or either of these films before. But I really want to watch them now. I do love beautiful scenery and a character driven drama.



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