The Story …
This is a wonderful film based on an intriguing novel. The film is entirely true to the mood of the novel. The island itself, it has been said, is actually a character in the film. The sounds of sea, surf, and wind predominate. The scenes of sea and sky and wind swept hills are beautifully filmed. The actors are excellent. Colin Morgan’s portrayal of Calum is nothing short of exceptional. It is melancholy and, yet, hopeful. It has become a favorite of mine, which can be experienced over and over and over again.
Calum is a young man who lives in a dream world of faeries and sylkies, and legends told him by his father. His mother dominates him and keeps him very close, unwilling to risk his getting away. He is simple, sweet and caring; he is not worldly in any sense. The character Nikki upsets this balance. He befriends her, but the mother wants her gone. This creates the dynamic which will change their lives.
Nikki is a very angry young woman who was abandoned at birth and brought up in foster homes. There are flash-backs of cruelty aimed at her by other children. She became very bitter and vengeful over the years. In her late twenties she found that it was possible to trace her birth mother. She did so … determining to find her and have her revenge, imagining that she would kill the woman who left her. She finds her mother on this remote island and rents a room from her while she bides her time. As she rents the room, she finds out that the woman has a son, Calum. Now, she has another painful blow … the mother kept the son … why not her?
Nikki is introduced to the island by Calum. He shows her the treasures he has saved from the sea … an assortment of rocks, shells, detritus, old shoes, etc. He is ebullient, happy, filled with the wonder of the world around him. He is a unique young man caught up in the lore and tales of the island, escaping his mother’s reach whenever possible. These two spend time together. Calum tells her many of the tales of the island. (These are very special moments for me, as his ability to relate these stories is soulful and quite beautiful.)
Calum tells Nikki that he tried to leave once and how that affected his mother (Phyllis). Nikki decides the way to really have her revenge is to take Calum away. She realizes that Calum likes her … and that precipitates her leading him on. She knows exactly what she is doing as she encourages his attentions. His approach to her is very tender and sweet … but she lets it go on too long, and he becomes aroused …
I won’t say this scene is not unsettling, but it is over very quickly. Very early in their meeting Calum had reached out to touch Nikki’s necklace, “pretty,” he says in his awkward way. She slaps him, and he retreats immediately … which says she could have controlled this later encounter if she had chosen to do so.
He is distraught over the incident, and painfully sorry. The story continues. Nikki still attempts to get him away by encouraging him to go with her to the mainland. There is a storm, they do not make it. In the aftermath of the storm Nikki returns to the house and confronts Phyllis … more of the back-story is revealed. But Calum overhears their conversation, and understands now that Nikki is Susan, his sister. Feeling ashamed and betrayed, he bursts through the door and violently strikes his mother in anger. This fatal act supplies the catalyst for the film’s resolution.