1 item from 1997
Lushly photographed and handsomely mounted, "Swept From the Sea" is a visual treat, radiating with incandescent seascapes and majestic swatches of the jagged coast of Cornwall.
Alas, all this brilliance amounts to mere preciousness in a narrative sunk by literal melodrama and a plodding pace. Receiving its gala at the Toronto International Film Festival, this Phoenix Pictures production is alternately enthralling and disappointing.
Inspired by a Joseph Conrad short story, the saga centers on two misfits who endure the stony rigors of the Cornish coast and its icy-hearted inhabitants. They are Amy (Rachel Weisz), a servant girl considered "simple" by the villagers, and Yanko (Vincent Perez), a Russian washed up on the shores following a shipwreck.
Amy has been an outcast all her life and has retreated into an inner world, nourishing it with romantic escapades along the beach where she collects cast-off treasures. Her solitary existence is altered considerably when Yanko washes up on shore: She is initially the only one to offer him kindness.
While Tim Willocks' screenplay is scrupulously attentive to plotting, it is also maddeningly thin. Every movement is noted, including the predictable ones, which compose nearly the whole of the picture. The narrative is, woefully, a paint-by-numbers composition as we watch the townsfolk in lock step isolate and ostracize the young Russian, despite his eagerness to please and wholesome industry.
If ever there was a story in need of subplot, this fills the bill. Its skeletal narrative structure is underdeveloped in terms of ambiguity, irony or any but the most obvious complications. In short, director Beeban Kidron has etched, albeit with a sumptuous visual palette, a transparent and ultimately unaffecting film.
Still, former still photographer Kidron is masterful in her framings and use of light. The Cornwall coast is captured in all its majesty and yet, because of the skimpy screenplay, Kidron's compositions never rise to the level of visual correlatives.
The performances are solid throughout, with the shining stars being the supporting players. While Perez exudes both a vitality and kindness as Yanko and Weisz is properly subdued as the introverted Amy, there is little spark to their portrayals. It's Ian McKellen as a pompous but wise local doctor and Kathy Bates as a perceptive spinster who conjure up the most flesh and blood in this oils-and-canvas production.
SWEPT FROM THE SEA
Phoenix Pictures presents
With the participation of the Greenlight Fund
A Tapson Steel Films production
A Beeban Kidron film
Producers Polly Tapson, Charles Steel,
Screenwriter Tim Willocks
Inspired by Joseph Conrad's "Amy Foster"
Executive producers Garth Thomas,
Director of photography Dick Pope
Production designer Simon Holland
Music John Barry
Costume designer Caroline Harris
Associate producer Devon Dickson
Amy Foster Rachel Weisz
Yanko Gooral Vincent Perez
Mr. Swaffer Joss Ackland
Miss Swaffer Kathy Bates
Dr. Kennedy Ian McKellen
Mrs. Smith Fiona Victory
Running time -- 114 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
1 item from 1997
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