(director: Nicolas Roeg; screenwriters: from the book “Castaway” by Lucy Irvine/Allan Scott; cinematographer: Harvey Harrison; editor: Tony Lawson; music: Stanley Myers; cast: Oliver Reed (Gerald Kingsland), Amanda Donohoe(Lucy Irvine), Georgina Hale (Sister Saint Margaret), Frances Barber (Sister Saint Winifred), Tony Rickards (Jason), Todd Rippon (Rod), Virginia Hey (Janice); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Rick McCallum; Warner Home Video; 1986-UK)

Despite all its short-comings, Roeg never lets things get dull.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Nicolas Roeg (“Performance”/”Walkabout”/”Don’t Look Now”) directs this absurdly fascinating erotic Robinson Crusoe island adventure film that explores a modern marriage between strangers over the span of a year. It’s based on two Australian non-fiction best-sellers — Lucy Irvine‘s Castaway and Gerald Kingsland’s The Islander.

The eccentric, beer-bellied, scruffy, divorced, middle-age Londoner Gerald Kingsland (Oliver Reed) advertises in the classifieds of Time Out magazine, as a writer looking for a wife to live with him for a year on a deserted tropical island. Gerald is a fun-loving big teddy bear of a man, who wants his soulmate to not only screw but ‘to cook, sew and put up a tent.’ The invite is accepted by a bored fellow Londoner, the much younger twentysomething Inland Revenue clerkLucy Irvine (Amanda Donohoe), looking to leave the city rat race and for the experience to be one of self-discovery. Though Lucy objects about getting married to satisfy the antiquated immigration law, she eventually agrees. The expenses paid by Gerald’s publisher in anticipation of a book to come out of this unique trip are quickly spent and Lucy has to pitch in with some of her money, since Gerald is broke.

The ill-matched couple, with different dreams about paradise, land on Tuin Island (between New Guinea and Australia), and are overwhelmed with their weird situation (at least she is), the emptiness and the beautiful serene landscape. After trying to make things work, Lucy gets turned off by her partners laziness and failure to build a shelter and inability to get into the part that interests her the most–learning to survive as a primitive. To teach him a lesson, she refuses to go to bed with him any more.

There’s nothing to do on the island but fish and walk around bare assed, as their thirteen months together quickly passes and since they’re all alone without distractions the year seems like a lifetime of marriage (carrying with it all the bad baggage). Their dreams of escape from their former shitty lives evaporates with their new reality, as their paradise is no longer seen as utopia. But the crass Gerald dreams on about a paradise island adventure and remains on a nearby island with the friendly natives, where he opens a workshop as a small engine repairman; Lucy, instead, returns to London alone (maybe a bit wiser!).

The scenery is lush; the performances are wonderfully nuanced, and it’s interesting to watch the couple change personalities and appearances within the year. Roeg somehow salvages this shipwreck of a plotless story about a daring romance turning sour by playing things straight and letting us see the couple in both their happy moments (screwing, not involved with the ugly affairs of the world and escaping from London’s high crime rate) and bitter moments (crabby spats, Gerald coming down with a foot infection, and Lucy becoming malnourished).

It’s hard to believe such an odd adventure story really happened, except we know it’s based on actuality.Despite all its short-comings, Roeg never lets things get dull–his camerasees to that.