Movie Review By Andrea Chase
"Swept from the Sea" is an earnest and respectful adaptation of the Joseph Conrad short story "Amy Foster." This moody tale of love, tragedy, forgiveness and the force of destiny does manage to avoid being ponderous, but not by much.
It's not a bad story. Handsome Yanko, the pride of his Ukranian family leaves the old country to seek his fortune in America. En route, his ship goes down in a violent storm and only Yanko survives. When he washes up on shore, his unkempt appearance, the man's just been shipwrecked after all, and unintelligible Russian brand him as a lunatic to the Cornish farmers who discover him. All except Amy, who sees beyond the bad grooming to the hunky looks and gentle heart beneath. Even when Yanko's misidentification is sorted out, Amy's family is less than thrilled with her new beau, leading to trials and tribulations for the lovers.
Victor Perez as Yanko exhibits a sly and impish charm. And he's certainly an eyeful of dark good looks. No wonder the outcast Amy, played by the inscrutable Rachel Weisz, falls for him. While everyone in the film goes on and on about how odd Amy is, she comes across as more aloof than addled. As a couple, they never really spark.
The hushed tones and deliberate pace would have been mitigated had director Beeban Kidran chosen to contrast it the true, raw, and unbridled teenage passion that the story is about. The one such interlude in a grotto was far too decorous.
Fortunately for us, while we politely wait for the flick to get on with it, there is the drama of the craggy Cornish coast for us to watch. There's some lovely cinematography by Dick Pope, who can actually make two hours of different shades of gray interesting. And there's a sterling supporting cast that punctuates the tedium, particularly Sir Ian McKellen as the village's philosophical doctor and Zoe Wanamaker as Amy's embittered mother.
During one of the film's many tragic moments, Yanko tells Amy that they're the lucky ones. Well, I suppose it's all in your perspective. Which allows me to opine that we in the audience are also the lucky ones, because "Swept from the Sea" is only two hours long.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 12/21/98
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