Torquil MacNeil: Not poor, they just haven’t got money.
I think that there is room in movies for clueless heroes and heroines who are redeemed by love. This romance has some of the greatest scenery ever and a kind of magical aura that I find irresistible.
Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller), daughter of a middle-class banker, is pretty and smart and has always gotten her own way. She has her eyes on the prize at all times and that prize is a life with the monied elite. As the story begins, she announces to her father that she will wed Consolidated Chemical Industries the next day. She ignores her father’s objections that its principal, the actual bridegroom, is as old as he. She is thrilled with the customized itinerary that will take her to the island in the Western Hebrides that her fiance, a Lord, has leased for the duration of the war.
All goes well until she reaches the port where a launch from the island is to meet her. There, as is common, the weather deteriorates to the point where it looks likely that there will be no passage out for several days. The locals extend a hospitable welcome but Joan does not understand the land poor real Scottish aristocracy or why she cannot simply buy her way to her destination. Furthermore, she is developing a dangerous attraction to the real laird of the island Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey). Something in the air of the surroundings is also being to instill pixie dust into her dreams. The threat that this may divert her from her life-long ambition leads her to take dangerous risks for herself and others in order to escape.
Some people find Wendy Hiller’s character to be unsympathetic. I contend that it is the unsympathetic that need to be rescued from their predicament. The fact is that Joan, in fact, has no idea where her heart wants to go and the film provides a place for it to rest. The very ending where Livesey reads the “curse” had tears in my eyes yet again. And I think no one could fail to see the beauty of Erwin Hiller’s gorgeous cinematography or the Scottish music.
As I started out on my journey through films I was kind of a Powell and Pressburger agnostic. As I age and revisit their work I find myself becoming an enthusiast.