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On a rusting cargo ship in the South China Sea, it's the young Polish captain's first command. His mutinous Chinese crew suspect him and his unscrupulous Boss of planning to scuttle the ship for an insurance scam. When the crew abandon ship, the young captain is left alone on board, helpless, anchored in a bay. That night while waiting anxiously on deck, he finds a naked body floating in the sea below, tangled up in the ship's rope ladder. Pulling the ladder, the captain discovers a Chinese woman in distress. She climbs on board, saying only "Hide me". Dawn comes a few hours later and so does a search party, looking for a murderer..... (In English & Mandarin.) Inspired by Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Sharer" Written by
I have the fondest of memories of Jack Laskey as Orlando in the Globe's production of As You Like It circa 2010 opposite Naomi Frederick's Rosalind. It was so full of guileish charm that I was utterly gripped by their roundabout romance. It so happens that production is available on DVD from the globe and it has its own IMDb entry here. Laskey's character in this film is not so far away from Orlando with his out-of-his-depth nervousness perfectly balanced with a need to assert himself as the new captain of the rust bucket cargo ship that has been stuck in port for six months and is being used by the motley crew as cheap apartments. Konrad, Laskey's character, has been suddenly promoted to captain beyond his years and he knows there is something strange about it. So does his oddball crew who suspect he will deliberately wreck the ship to get the insurance, wrecking them along with it, just to make things look convincing. With this tense atmosphere in place they embark on a journey. Konrad wakes one day to find that the crew has dropped anchor and is sailing away on a dinghy for some unscheduled R&R. While left stranded alone on the ship during the night a naked Chinese woman, Li, climbs aboard mermaid-like from the sea. Konrad takes her to his cabin after she passes out and there she recuperates without much care to put any clothes back on and Konrad is understandably enticed, agreeing to help her. The next day the captain of a nearby ship boards and searches the ship attempting to find the woman claiming that she is a murderer. With the stakes now raised considerably higher he keeps her presence a secret from the crew who return soon enough which means he has to share his food rations with her and she becomes the secret sharer. Once it becomes clear that Konrad will indeed be expected to scuttle the ship, Li becomes pivotal in forming an escape plan and winning the crew over.
There is so much to admire about this film.The performances of the actors are especially wonderful with Laskey cunningly developing from a yes man, keen to impress the man known only as "the Boss", into the captain of this soul without tedious histrionics. Zhu Zhu as the stowaway Li exudes mystery as she changes slowly from traumatised suicide attempter to a more confident and often rather petulant collaborator and lover of captain Konrad. Her vaguely American accent only adds to the sense that this is a woman with a past, a past we will never know about. The rest of the crew are all excellent, each with a distinctively drawn portrait, if with somewhat broad strokes. The Director, Peter Fudakowski , seems determined to keep things simple with few flourishes. The camera lingers, at first on the shimmering sea and then on the perpetually naked body of Zhu Zhu, who is, as it were, reborn in Konrad's cabin having left every stitch of her former life behind, and this lingering of the camera reflects the dreamy focus of Konrad and leads us into his seducements with the sea and her. It is subtly done and nicely balances the writing with the direction, but since both were the same person it is not so surprising. The balance is further developed when Konrad's budding romance is contrasted with a suspicious crew on the verge of mutiny. The dialogue is uncomplicated among the lovers and often hilarious among the crew, providing a window onto the world of gigantic cargo vessels.
The critical reception of this film has been generally less than buoyant with only a few seeing what I saw, chief among them Allan Hunter of the Express (4*/5). Whilst I can accept the limitations of the film (it's a bit "Mills and Boon", the ending is half baked and doesn't make sense) still some of the criticisms that have been leveled against it seem picky at best. This negative attention may have prevented the film finding its audience (there is one) since it seemed to sink without trace, scuppered by critics. Its a pity because its an entertaining, uplifting and beautiful film.
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