Island is a tense physiological thriller that follows orphaned and mentally disturbed, Nikki Black (Natalie Press) as she moves to a Hebridean Scottish island to seek, find and kill her birth mother.
The story opens with Nikki travelling over to the Island to seek lodgings at Phyllis’s (Janet Mc Teer) house in order that she can undertake a fake geography project. Nikki is quickly recognised as an outsider in the local village, alongside the extreme Scottish weather conditions, life on the island already starts to look bleak. Phyllis’s son Calum is played by BBC Merlin star Colin Morgan but is away from his usual cavalry for a more deeper and challenging role as he offers to show Nikki around the Island.
The two characters are both as shady and hesitant as each other as Calum’s unemployment leads him to an obsession about beachcombing and Nikki’s flashbacks and insomnia causes tension. However it is not until Nikki walks out in a deep mist and Calum comes to rescue her that it sparks a sexual undercurrent between the two.
Meanwhile Phyllis uses a strange concoction of medicine to relieve her long term cancer and refuses to speak to Nikki who is determined to find out the truth about her birth mother. As no conclusions are made about Nikki’s past, Calum and Nicky decide to leave the Island. However the evening twilight of the Island reveals a deadly storm and the fate of the two are caught up in the waves. When Nikki and Calum finally challenge Phyllis it wasn’t the answer the two were looking for, an outburst of anger leads to murderous results.
Myth and Mysteries
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Jane Rodgers, the directors Elizabeth Taylor and Brek Taylor describe the film as a ‘fairy-tale’ thriller. The film plays repeatedly on the idea of, part myth, part mystery. The myths create the backdrop of the film, as from the opening sequence when Nikki’s drawings are animated over old storybooks and she narrates: ‘When I was 29 I decided to kill my mother but don’t believe everything you are told’. The setting of the Island provides Calum with tales of sea beasts and local stories in a child like nature. For Nikki and Calum, the pain of rejection in past experiences has led them to use storytelling to hide away genuine emotions and the reality of life. For example whilst the two are exploring the forest:
Calum: ‘There are houses of little people that live here. Nikki, Do you know who the little people are?
Nikki: ‘ I don’t believe in fairies.’
Calum: ‘You shouldn’t say that.’
Nikki: ‘Why not?’
Calum: ‘You can’t keep sheep here because the little people drive them mad, they run in circles, around and around until they die. They were lucifer’s angels[ from Paradise Lost?] when he left heaven, they had to leave too, some of them fell in the sea and… others fell on land. They play all sorts of tricks and deceptions.’
In there fairy-tale world there seems to be a sense of order as they can choose the fate of there characters, which like Nikki and Calum, none end up with a happy ending. This use of storytelling helps them to express their different personas and reflects the isolation and fear of living on the bleak island. By using storytelling as an escapism, the two resist the fact that the truth is too much to bear in trying to reconcile there relationships with Phyllis.
The use of myths and mysteries blur the lines on what is the truth overall in this film. Nikki and Calum long to find out the truth about Phyllis’ family history but equally they struggle to find the right moment to raise the issue. This then leads to anger and frustration. This does raise the question, how do we reconcile our relationships in a loving way? Do you tend to try and hide away and escape the problem like Nikki and Calum or do face up to the situation. Ultimately, God has faced up and dealt with the sin of the world at the cross, offering forgiveness of all sins and uniting his people to Christ, ‘ But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.’ ( Col 1:21)