Based on Joseph Conrad's short story Amy Foster, Swept From the Sea (1997) is a film about two lovers who seek peace in a town that hates them. To the town, Amy Foster (played by Rachel Weisz) is a pensive, reclusive girl who is dubbed a witch by many. Underneath her placid exterior, however, lies a hidden love for the sea by which she lives and all of the beautiful gifts it gives her. Her life changes forever when the sea brings her the greatest gift of all. Yanko Gooral (played by Vincent Perez) is an adventurous young man who leaves his native Ukraine for America in search of a better life.
Set and filmed in Cornwall, England, Swept From the Sea is beautifully simple in its story and sweepingly epic in its cinematography. The film also stars Sir Ian McKellan as an intelligent country doctor and Kathy Bates as a wealthy benefactress. The full billed cast is as follows:
Adapted for the screen by Tim Willocks and directed by Beeban Kidron, the production team for the movie had a specific vision. Kidron was thrilled at having the opportunity to create a film in her native country, and thus directed the necessary passion into the process. Wanting to create an epic story without the contrived elements of many period films, Kidron placed a lot of emphasis on the characterizations of Amy and Yanko. The hatred of the pair by their community is felt heavily throughout the movie, heightening the sense of tragedy. The atmosphere, characters, and story are focused on without being pushed too hard. Willocks' screenplay was followed closely and his talent was put to use in transforming Conrad's short 30 page piece into a full length feature film. He brought the elements of the love story out from the original work, as Conrad had been more concerned with the tragic parts of it.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the movie, for me, was the setting. The windswept cliffs of the English coastline offer a simple but beautiful background. The small town was completely contructed by the crew in lieu of an authentic period location. Details were never overlooked, and the costumes of the characters reflect this. Never overdressed, the actors wore simple outfits that were designed for their character's individual personality. Amy is dressed in blues and greens, the colors of the sea that she loves. Yanko's clothes are worn, reflecting the journey that he been through. They were not the focus of the characters' appearance, but rather acted to enhance it.
The cast was very well selected. Rachel Weisz possesses a calm, confident sort of tranquility and a classic beauty that makes her perfect for the sort of person that Amy Foster is. The same is true for Vincent Perez, who is very expressive without losing a quiet sense of strength. He is also very talented technically; his accent and manner is very convincing for a foreigner in a strange land.
My favorite part about this movie are the characters. The reasons for their exile from their community are very real they are individuals with whom it is easy to relate. Their relationship is expressed well in the movie's tagline:
In the heart of an outcast he found his destiny.
In the passion of an outsider she found her home.