Swept From the Sea

on January 23, 1998 by Kevin Courrier
   You can sweep this one right back where it came from. It's an embarrassingly florid romantic melodrama from director Beeban Kidron ("To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar"). Based on a Joseph Conrad short story ("Amy Foster"), it dredges up just about every cliche imaginable. Stormy seas, lovers perched on horizon's edge, repressed townfolk perched on the edge of madness, and fits of screaming passion: All are served on a platter of John Barry's crashing music, which makes one think the theatre's being bombed.
   Amy Foster ("Chain Reaction's" Rachel Weisz) is a simple girl who's considered an outsider in her small town of Colebrook. One day she falls in love with Yanko ("The Crow: City of Angels'" Vincent Perez), a Ukrainian survivor of a shipwreck. Initially he's thought by the town to be mad and dangerous, until he's befriended by Dr. Kennedy ("Richard III's" Ian McKellen), who recognizes Yanko's intelligence and starts to teach him English. When Yanko and Amy get married, the townsfolk become upset and drive the couple to tragedy. This is basically the same kind of purple masochism that had some critics and audience members applauding "Breaking the Waves" last year. (Except that, stylistically, this is a much more old-fashioned romantic weeper.) "Swept From the Sea" says that this couple's love is too pure for the threatened community they live in.
   McKellen manages to keep his sanity as the doctor, but Perez is all pecs and no perks as an actor and Weisz is a beauty lost in her ravishing blankness. Some bad movies provide something because they take the risk in trying to say something new, and they fail honestly. "Swept From the Sea" is the kind of failure that gives nothing because its only measure of success is what it makes at the boxoffice.    Starring Vincent Perez, Rachel Weisz, Ian McKellen and Kathy Bates. Directed by Beeban Kidron. Written by Tim Willocks. Produced by Polly Tapson, Charles Steel and Beeban Kidron. A TriStar release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for elements of theme and some sensuality. Running time: 114 min.
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