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1 item from 1997

Film review: 'Swept From the Sea'

10 September 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

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.


Phoenix Pictures presents

With the participation of the Greenlight Fund

A Tapson Steel Films production

A Beeban Kidron film

Producers Polly Tapson, Charles Steel,

Beeban Kidron

Screenwriter Tim Willocks

Inspired by Joseph Conrad's "Amy Foster"

Executive producers Garth Thomas,

Tim Willocks

Director of photography Dick Pope

Production designer Simon Holland

Music John Barry

Editors Alex Mackie, Andrew Mondshein

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

Mr. Smith Tony Haygarth

Mrs. Smith Fiona Victory

Running time -- 114 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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