Edward (Hiddleston) is in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. He is quitting his job in the city to travel to Africa, doing volunteer educational work to promote safe sex and combat the spread of AIDS. To see him off, his mother Patricia (Fahy) and sister Cynthia (Leonard) have organised a family holiday and bon voyage party on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly in a cottage they often rented years before. An invitation has also been extended to Patricia's estranged husband, who appears to have expressed the vague intention of coming.
His mother and sister have deemed this a family-only holiday and have forbidden Edward to bring Chloe, his girlfriend, much to his irritation. Even with the exclusion of Chloe, they have nonetheless invited some outsiders: Christopher, a local artist who has been hired to teach Patricia how to paint the beautiful surrounding landscapes, and a professional cook, Rose (Lloyd).
Things start to fall into place and the trip quickly turns into mental crisis, anxiety and resentment. Edward starts to wonder if his mother and sister have created this whole holiday with ulterior motives of their own. He seems all too ready to be talked out of his African plan, because he actually doesn't have the smallest idea what to do with his life and comes close to trying to seduce Rose.
The bitter brother-sister relationship between Edward and Cynthia boils over during the holiday and comes to a head after Edward thinks that not inviting Rose to sit with them at the table is ridiculous, but it is insisted that because Rose has been hired as a cook, asking her to join them would be uncomfortable. To make up for it, they invite her to a restaurant meal, which Cynthia spoils by complaining and making a fuss about the food.
Edward's African trip begins to look unlikely, upstaged by the exotic beauty of the Isles of Scilly. Rose decides to leave earlier than she had planned and instead of saying goodbye, leaves a note in the kitchen which Edward finds. Towards the end Edward and Cynthia reconcile and without ever having seen Patricia's husband, the trio pack up and say goodbye to the house and go back to their everyday lives.Tom Hiddleston as EdwardKate Fahy as PatriciaLydia Leonard as CynthiaAmy Lloyd as RoseChristopher Baker as Christopher, a non-professional actor and real-life artistAlan Mark Hewitt the chef, English non professional actor and real life chef
The film was shot on location on Tresco, Isles of Scilly in 2009. It is produced by Wild Horses Films. Several people who live and work on Tresco appear in the film and are credited as themselves.
Archipelago premiered at the Pusan International Film Festival in 2010, and had its UK premiere at the 2010 London Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Film.
It was released in the UK by Artificial Eye on 4 March 2011.
The film has been very well received critically. Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian gave the film five stars. It has provoked much comment and debate, particularly focused on its social setting and distinctive cinematic style.