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  Dove, The The Shipping Forecast
Year: 1974
Director: Charles Jarrott
Stars: Joseph Bottoms, Deborah Raffin, John McLiam, Dabney Coleman, John Anderson, Colby Chester, Ivor Barry, Setoki Ceinaturoga, Reverend Nikula, Apenisa Naigulevu, John Meillon, Gordon Glenwright, Garth Meade, Peter Gwynne, Cecily Polson, Anthony Fridjhon
Genre: Romance, Adventure, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Robin Lee Graham (Joseph Bottoms) is a mere teenager, but with the encouragement of his father (John McLiam) he has embarked on a journey to sail around the world in his sloop, The Dove. His dad taught him all he knows about a life on the ocean wave, but now he is going to have to get used to being alone for weeks on end, and as a sociable kind of boy he's not sure if he is up to that challenge, never mind the physical challenge of the sailing. Therefore when he meets another, slightly older teenager, Patti Ratteree (Deborah Raffin), he begins to think on his record attempt, and whether he would be better off staying around her...

The Dove was based on the real life story of Graham whose autobiographical book about his adventures around the globe was a big seller in the early nineteen-seventies. Star Gregory Peck was getting into producing at this stage in his career, and optioned the book, working out a joint deal with Britain's EMI and Hollywood's Paramount to bring it to the screen, though funnily enough despite being a British-American co-production none of the scenes took place in those countries, or the oceans immediately around them as Peck and his director Charles Jarrott were enthusiastic about shooting in the same locations as Graham had visited.

He had taken from the mid-sixties to the early seventies to complete his voyage, and had used two boats into the bargain, but the movie was keen to compress all that experience into the use of one boat and a lot of montage to indicate when Graham was biding his time at a particular region before setting off once again. The motive this gave him for doing so was to hang around with Patti, as this was effectively a romance as well as a seafaring yarn, though there was some tension to be worked out with his father as well, which at least was true to life, as they did not really reconcile until some time afterwards when they went on another sailing trip, this time with a crew.

Back at The Dove, with Ingmar Bergman's favoured cinematographer Sven Nykvist taking care of the visuals, you could guarantee this would look good, and his glowing imagery of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans and the countries Graham visited was a very good reason to catch this, as not all of it was made on the water. Certainly the two leads had a very youthful appearance, as befitting their counterparts, though Bottoms (one of four brothers who had varying success at acting) did skirt a shade close to petulant in his readings which may have been accurate to a teenage explorer of the seas, but risked losing audience sympathy. Raffin by contrast was more together, though her characterisation started and ended with "free-spirited" which Graham had to tame as he did the waters.

If the drama was on the shallow side, ironically in light of how deep the oceans our hero was travelling through, it was assuredly not without incident. With its cavalier attitude to cat safety - Graham was keen to have a ship's cat, but their survival rate was low - and veering between the land and the sea which meant one minute he would be suffering through a photo shoot for publicity and the next almost drowning in a huge storm that damages the boat, the adventure elements were emphasised as much as the love story. This was all under the close guidance of Peck, who was extremely enthusiastic about his producer's role and by all accounts very hands-on with the entire project, short of actually directing it himself: reportedly he only lost his enthusiasm for the pressures of producing after his son died, and he returned to acting full time to cope with his grief. You could sense a paternal concern across Graham's tale as seen here, and that was to its benefit, maybe it was not hugely surprising, but it did hold the attention as throwing caution to the wind, seventies-style, had its appeal. Music by John Barry.

[Network's Blu-ray in The British Film may seem incongruous when there's no scenes in Britain, but the film's fans will be glad of this release. As extras, there's the trailer, an image gallery, subtitles and a short interview with one of the assistants on the movie.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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