In SWEPT FROM THE SEA, an English social outcast servant, Amy Foster (Rachel Weisz), meets Yanko Gooral (Vincent Perez), an Ukrainian peasant, who is shipwrecked off the Cornish coastline. Yanko struggles up the cliffs to ask for help at a farm. The farm's owner brands Yanko a lunatic and vagabond, but Amy sees through Yanko's dirty face and brings him bread and water. After Yanko recovers, he courts Amy, but the townspeople shun and beat Yanko. Yanko and Amy get married, and she bears a son, but another violent squall hits the coast and more tragedy ensues. The tragedy ends on a note of reconciliation.
In spite of compelling performances, the melancholy mood of the drama may not appeal to a wide audience because of its unrelenting tragic premise and tragic ending. A classical love story, SWEPT FROM THE SEA has gorgeous cinematography and a moving musical score, but the hopelessness of the two lovers' situation and the random cruelties of the provincial people to the two strangers undercut its artistic appeal. In 1901, Joseph Conrad wrote the short story, "Amy Foster", which became SWEPT FROM THE SEA. The story reflects Conrad's anxieties as a Polish exile living in an adopted country.
(B, R, L, V, S, A, S, M) Moral, romantic worldview with Biblical elements of a romance between a forsaken woman & a shipwreck survivor; 7 profanities, 3 obscenities; man hits man with a stick, men beat man with fists, man threatens woman; depicted but discreet sex between a married couple; alcohol, smoking, and hypocritical church people's attitudes.
In SWEPT FROM THE SEA, life is nasty, brutish and short. Based on famous 19th Century novelist Joseph Conrad’s tragedy, “Amy Foster”, SWEPT FROM THE SEA is a love story which pits two strong-hearted lovers against the elements and against the hatred and prejudice of Cornish country people in late 19th Century England. Passionate, but uneducated Ukrainian peasant, Yanko Gooral (Vincent Perez), embarks on an epic voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from his native Ukraine, intending to immigrate to America, but a violent squall cuts short his journey as his ill-equipped boat sails past England. The storm sweeps him overboard into choppy seas off the Cornish coastline. The only survivor of the ill-fated vessel, he struggles up the steep hills to ask for help at a seaside farm, New Barns Farm.
At New Barns Farm, a social outcast servant-girl, Amy Foster (Rachel Weisz), sees Yanko’s face through the kitchen window, but her frightened employer orders her to bar the man from the room. New Barns’ owner, Mr. Smith (Tony Haygarth), beats him and locks him in a wood shed, branding him a lunatic and vagabond. However, Amy sees through his repulsively dirty face and matted hair. She washes his face and brings him bread and water. After he recovers from his injuries, Mr. Swaffer (Joss Ackland) takes him in as an unpaid laborer on the farm he owns with his daughter, Miss Swaffer (Kathy Bates). After he pronounces hundreds of shipwreck victims dead, the town physician, Dr. James Kennedy (Sir Ian McKellan), recognizes Yanko as the sole survivor of the disastrous shipwreck and shows compassion to him, offering him hospitality and teaching him English in exchange for Yanko’s chess lessons.
Yanko begins courting Amy, giving her a pretty neck ribbon, but the townspeople begin a vindictive campaign of taunts and jeers against both of them, their antagonism erupting into fist fights. Yanko appears for church, but the cold, hostile stares of the townspeople and priest repulse him. When Yanko passes by a drunken group of men, Amy’s father instigates a fight, beating the defenseless Ukrainian as a neighbor holds his arms behind him. Retreating to Dr. Kennedy’s house, the good doctor stitches up his wounds then upbraids the townspeople for their cruelty and pious hypocrisy.
Yanko and Amy get married, then make discreet love in Amy’s secret cave, where she collects flotsam and jetsam. Amy’s mother, Mary Foster, reveals a shocking secret about the circumstances of her conception. Mr. Swaffer gives the unfortunate couple a stone house on the bluffs above the shore, where they set up housekeeping. Amy conceives and bears a son, but the cruel townspeople still taunt and jeer her as she walks through town, causing her great emotional suffering. Another violent squall besieges the town, and Yanko gets sick. Delirious, Yanko tosses and turns violently in bed, then gets up and threatens his wife and child. Terrorized, Amy leaves her feverish husband to find refuge for her and her son. Will Amy be able to nurse husband and son through yet another crisis? The tragedy ends on a note of reconciliation.
In 1901, English novelist Joseph Conrad wrote “Amy Foster”, the short story from which Tim Willocks wrote the screenplay for SWEPT FROM THE SEA. Amy Foster reflected many of Conrad’s own anxieties as a Polish exile living in an adopted country. He had to contend with the same kinds of prejudices with which Yanko contends in SWEPT FROM THE SEA. Although Conrad is best known for his epic man versus nature stories, (such as “Heart of Darkness”), the passion of the two lovers in SWEPT FROM THE SEA mirrors the overwhelming Cornish countryside and the stormy seascape beyond its beaches
As Amy Foster, Rachel Weisz puts in an emotionally compelling performance as does Vincent Perez as Yanko, but the melancholy mood of the drama lends the whole production a depressing tone. A classical love story, SWEPT FROM THE SEA has gorgeous cinematography and a moving musical score, but the hopelessness of the two lovers’ situation, and the random cruelties of the provincial Cornish townspeople to the two strangers in their midst undercut its artistic appeal. This movie will most likely not appeal to a wide audience because of its unrelenting tragic premise and tragic ending.
Moreover, whereas the townspeople in SWEPT FROM THE SEA taunt and mock the two strangers in their midst, God tells His people to love strangers: “Don’t mistreat any foreigners in your midst. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself.” (Leviticus 19:33-34a)
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