A dreamy Cornish wench falls in love with the Ukranian sailor who washes up on the beach.
Hot on the trail of the current crop of classic costume dramas comes Beeban Kidron's muted adaptation of the titular Joseph Conrad short story, formerly known as Swept From The Sea. The heroine in question (Weisz) is a strange and lonely young beauty in late 19th century Cornwall, fascinated by the ever-threatening grey sea and the treasures it sometimes leaves on the shoreline.
Swept into her life like a piece of driftwood comes Yanko (Perez), a swarthy Ukrainian whose ship has sunk on its way to the golden land of America. Yanko finds work locally and is befriended by Dr. Kennedy (McKellen), but most other villagers remain hostile to his "heathen" ways. Both treated like outsiders, Amy and Yanko inevitably forge a bond, to the consternation of the closely-knit community. Love blossoms, but as signposted by the brooding atmosphere, tragedy looms.
Weisz makes an attractive, appealing heroine and Perez a striking, romantic hero cut from the same rough cloth as Heathcliff. Reminiscent of The French Lieutenant's Woman, Amy Foster is strangely passionless yet beautifully shot - from the train journey which carries Yanko across the Ukrainian plains, to the slate-grey seascapes of wind-lashed Cornwall. The story itself evokes the burgeoning love affair and the harshness of life in an isolated community with tenderness.
Although an improvement on Kidron's last effort, the woefully unfunny To Wong Foo, ultimately there is no fresh ground broken here and the film is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of its more fruitful costumed cousins.
Those addicted to the fulminating fusion of corset and countryside should find just about enough to sate their appetites.