3.5 out of 10

Release Date: 22nd April 2011

Director: Elizabeth Mitchell & Brek Taylor

Cast: Natalie Press, Colin Morgan and Janet McTeer

Writer: Elizabeth Mitchell & Brek Taylor / Jane Rogers

Trailer: ISLAND

Island is the type of britpic that Channel Four would release every few months throughout the 1990s.  Bleak, meandering, curious with bold pretensions. In this 21st century take on the quirky britpic it comes across as tired, sluggish and a bit bored with itself. Maybe as I’m getting older I’m losing patience with these kind of vaguely enchanting movies set at the edge of society revolving around people at our margins. But even if this had have come out in the 1990s it still would have paled in comparison to what else was around.  I’m talking about movies like Dakota Road, Waterland, The Cement Garden, Madagascar Skin, I Want You, Butterfly Kiss and a few others. The story is slight and unconvincing despite good solid performances from Natalie Press (ILL MANORS) and Colin Morgan (MERLIN).

Nikki Black (NATALIE PRESS) is really Susan, the long lost daughter of island recluse Phyllis (JANET MCTEER – TIDELAND). Abandoned at birth, Nikki has decided to track her mother down, confront her and kill her. Renting a room in Phyllis’ remote cottage on a Hebridean island, her mission hits a bump when she meets her half-brother, Calum (COLIN MORGAN).  He is an over-protected, sensitive man child with a propensity for storytelling about local myths. This softens Nikki because she also draws and writes her own similar story. Forging a bond of freindship makes Nikki more protective of Calum against their mentally unstable mother. And so it goes, a battle of hearts and minds for Calum’s loyalty begins.

The need to tell stories so often in the film (eventhough they serve as bold plot metaphors) only helps the mind drift away. I think I only bothered to follow one of the stories, because of the static camera and the hypnotic elements of wind and music that accompanied them.  The main plot drags along at a sluggish pace and you can see where it’s all going 15 minutes in.  Natalie Press is good as the fierce and bolshy Nikki. Nothing seems to faze her and no question is beyond a blunt ask. Colin Morgan does even better with a cliched role of local nut job. The third character of note is Janet mcTeer‘s Phyllis, who spends a lot of her time, wringing her hands and talking to herself in corners. She’s barely in the movie even though she’s probably in a lot of scenes.

The cinematographer and the location scouts deserve rewards for their work. The locations are amazing, with the hermitage being found at the foot of a small mountain and the island’s rigged beauty evoke thoughts of wonder.  It’s just a shame that Island is such a ‘meh’ film. I miss the 90s when films like this were celebrated and taken a bit more seriously. Nowadays, they just come across as slight student projects.

3.5 out of 10 – Good acting and beautiful locations aren’t enough to make me recommend Island to anybody except myth lovers, hippies and seals (who may see someone they know).



  • Natalie Press: Ill Manors, Cass, Nightwatching, Chromophobia, Red Road, Wasp (short), My Summer Of Love
  • Colin Morgan: Legend (2014), Testament of Youth, Merlin (TV), Parked
  • Janet McTeer: Angelica, The White Queen (TV), Parade’s End (TV), Albert Nobbs, The Woman In Black, As You Like It (2006), Tideland, The King Is Alive, Tumbleweeds, Velvet Goldmine, Carrington, Wuthering Heights (1992)

One thought on “ISLAND

  1. ISLAND – review by Matt Usher aka Joe Pesci II

    The closing credits of ISLAND are delightful: poignant animations relating to some of the ideas explored earlier in the film. Unfortunately the previous ninety minutes are not so distinctive. The problem is that the source material does not live up to the film-makers’ approach. I’ve not read (nor had I heard of) the original novel, but there seems to be an almost complete dislocation between the plot and its on-screen incarnation. In short, they’ve filmed the wrong story.

    The plot: a young woman is in search of her mother, who, the young woman believes, abandoned her as a baby. Unlike Ernest in Wilde’s play about a similar situation, the young woman is quite upset about it and has grown up as an anti-social but misunderstood brat. She tracks the errant alleged mother down to the titular island where she (the young woman not the aberrant mother) masquerades as a geography student. But then she falls for the island’s village idiot, who just happens to be the mother’s son (and therefore may or may not be her brother). Complications ensue. Incest, accusations of witchcraft, cancer, and ill-advised boat-trips are thrown in. It all ends in tears. That to me reads like one of those trashy ITV dramas that they used to make to keep Robson Green and Caroline Quentin off the streets. But ISLAND seems barely concerned with all this (and who would blame it?). The film is much more interested in the desolate island itself (which makes for a starkly dramatic yet moodily miserable backdrop to these uninvolving events), and the two misfits at the heart of the story, played by Natalie Press and Colin Morgan. But the problem here is that these two aren’t all that interesting either, and Press employs a very fake-sounding voice (presumably designed to emphasise her character’s isolation it succeeds only in sounding like a send-up of itself). Meanwhile Janet McTeer hovers ambiguously but with nothing to do (except be ambiguous).

    It’s all atmospherically filmed, with some excellent locations, and the generally bleak atmosphere billows about unsettlingly. The film looks like it ought to be some sort of coming of age story with mythic elements thrown in for good measure. The film’s lack of pace also suggests that it ought to be more about character and atmosphere than the melodramatic plot machinations (which nevertheless never seem to go anywhere).

    ISLAND should have been (and I think it wanted to be) a much simpler film, ideally pretty much plotless, about two people exploring the island and telling stories and finding out about themselves; it should have been about legends and identity without paying lip service to a not particularly interesting update of a Grimm-style fairy-story (albeit a depressing adult one). Less is famously more, and this is a film which would certainly have benefitted from that maxim, and I’ll follow my own advice by ending the review early, and hope the film-makers turn their undoubted talents to something both more simple and more interesting next time.

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