When The Whales Came

Paul Scofield and Helen Mirren are both certainly able as the stars of this ecological parable, which is set on England’s Isle of Bryher at the time of the outbreak of World War I. But it’s not hard to imagine this sentimental, goodhearted effort as a low-budget Technicolor MGM family picture of the early 50s, with, say, Greer Garson and Donald Crisp. Seventy years before the story opens, the Isle of Samson has been blighted by a curse brought by the inhabitants’ preying on a school of beached whales. One of the survivors, now a deaf social outcast known on Bryher as the Birdman (Scofield), teaches two children on the island (Helen Pearce and Max Rennie) how to appreciate and respect nature, and when the whales begin to turn up on Bryher, it becomes their job to avert a repetition of the disaster that befell Samson in 1844. Adapted by Michael Morpurgo from his own novel and directed by Clive Rees, this is a pleasant enough family picture, although not a very dynamic one. (JR)

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