Starring Oliver Reed and Amanda Donohue
REVIEWED BY STEPHEN BERRY
Castaway or the Rediscovery of the Market ...
Ever want to get away from it all? Lucy Irvine (played by Amanda Donohue) does. It's London in the early 1980s. She is a lowly clerk in the Inland Revenue with the work boring and likely to remain so. Outside, the weather is typically English and when she turns on the TV, she is treated to news items from the modern world. There is an attempt on the life of the Pope, bomb explosions from the IRA and the latest exploits of the Yorkshire Ripper, all covered in loving detail.
Lucy reads an advertisement in the London Time Out magazine. Gerald Kingsland (played by Oliver Reed) wants a ‘wife’ to share a year with him on a deserted tropical island. Gerald has signed a contract with a publishing company to write a book about the experience and, in return, the company will fund this little excursion to paradise.
Lucy and Gerald meet at a London hotel and it all seems to go swimmingly - at least from Gerald’s point of view. Gerald is divorced and in his mid-forties. Lucy is 20 years younger and it's made pretty clear in the film that he chooses her because she is young and pretty. And perhaps the fact that Lucy decides to sleep with him to ensure that she can get to the island of her dreams also influences his decision. The rest of the film, excellently directed by Nicholas Roeg, develops the two themes of the story: the desperate and doomed attempt to escape from the modern world; the stormy and often comical relationship between Gerald and Lucy.
The intrepid duo set out to Tuin island off the north coast of Australia for their year in paradise and, once they have arrived, Lucy lays her cards on the table. There is to be no sex on Tuin, thank you very much. Poor Gerald! Lucy in turn discovers that Gerald is bone idle and behaves rather like the average bloke watching football in the pub who has found himself inexplicably and surprisingly transported to a desert island. Poor Lucy!
Life on the island is not easy. Gerald cuts his leg which won't heal properly and, with no modern world, there are no antibiotics. His favourite vegetable patch remains unresponsive to his attentions. Ditto Lucy. This must be particularly galling for Gerald as Lucy seems to have forgotten to pack enough clothes for the trip and consequently has to wander around the island in various stages of undress.
Their physical condition gradually deteriorates and it becomes clear that Tuin is turning into the desert island of their nightmares. Rescue comes in the nick of time. Some medically-trained nuns arrive, bringing with them items from a modern world which Gerald and Lucy sought to leave behind: antibiotics; vitamin pills and bandages.
But deliverance is not just of the medical variety. The nuns are accompanied by natives from a local island who have brought with them the possibility of the market, that ultimate source of the modern world. Gerald is a dab hand with engines and all things mechanical. The natives from a nearby island have lots of engines which don't work and they don't know how to fix. Gerald does know how and, in return, the natives give him food. The division of labour has arrived on paradise island.
Gerald's foray into the trading nexus may have ensured their
future and made life tolerable, but it has destroyed Lucy's
dream of solitude - and she resents it. The modern world can
be quite ruthless with people's dreams, especially when these
dreams take little heed of economics.