DVD Review: The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant
Release Date: March 27, 2007
Distributor: MTI Home Video
· Peter Andrikidis
· Romola Garai
· Jack Davenport
· Alex O'Loughlin
· Sam Neill
· IMDb: The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant
by Paul Schultz
Published: March 28, 2007
The epic period drama "The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant" was originally
shown as a mini-series on Australian television and has a running time of just over three hours. It depicts the adventures of Mary Broad (Romola Garai,
"Amazing Grace") -- young, gorgeous, and starving
-- after she is convicted of a petty crime and sentenced to seven years in the
Australian penal colony of Botany Bay in 1788.
The first part documents the harrowing voyage by ship to the far-off prison camp as Mary finds herself among the few women aboard. Complicating matters is that she's pregnant by a jailer. Oh, yeah... giving birth on a filthy ship filled with criminals out in the middle of nowhere... it doesn't get any more depressing than that! Well, throw in a violent storm that has prisoners hanging on for dear life as seawater mingles with their seasickness... I guess it could get worse.
But let's not dwell on that, shall we, as Mary gains the attention of British officer-in-charge Lt. Ralph Clarke (Jack Davenport,
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"). Spurned by his wife just as they were setting sail, Ralph takes a shine to young Mary -- a "no touchy" kind of shine, though that would soon change. She gets to bunk in Ralph's cabin, much to the chagrin of fellow prisoner Will Bryant (Alex O'Loughlin, "Feed") who also carries a torch for the spunky Cornwall girl.
She successfully gives birth on ship just before they reach Botany Bay.
Life is hard at the penal colony, as Governor Arthur Phillip (Sam Neill,
"The Triangle") struggles to get supplies and keep the prisoners in line. Family life affords better living conditions, so Mary marries Will and soon son Emmanuel is added to the brood. Hunger is a constant concern as crops fail to grow and the fickleness of fishing becomes the primary source of food.
Mary Bryant (Romola Garai) is bent out
of shape over discovering escape plans
that don't include her.
Mary doesn't want her children to experience the starvation she faced which ultimately led to her incarceration, so she begins formulating a plan to escape. Food and supplies are stolen and stockpiled over time, until the moment comes to hock the Governor's cutter. Mary flees to Ralph after "abandoning" her husband to create the needed distraction while a small group of criminals in on the plan make way to the ship. She puts on a fine performance, as we find out she rides more than ships in this film.
Secreting away in the night, Mary heads for the shore, but a rather
pissed-off Ralph discovers her deception and makes chase. Now, here's
where there's a goofy bit continuity as part one ends with the cliffhanger of
Ralph pointing his gun at the escapees just getting under way. As part two
opens, the small group is out to sea, baking in the sun. Okay... I guess
we're just to assume Ralph missed with his shot and move on.
The second part chronicles the arduous journey as the newly-free convicts set sail on a four-thousand mile trek to freedom. They hug the shore beyond Botany Bay waiting for the right weather to make their way to Timor. This tries the patience of some, who want to set up shop right where they are rather than risk their lives over the open sea. Mary will have none of it and keeps the band together, reasoning that it's the best chance of survival for them all.
Making it to a Dutch colony at Timor, the exhausted group enjoys the first real luxuries of freedom. That pesky Ralph, though, just happens to stop
at the same colony on his way back to England for reassignment. From here on out, there's a mad scramble as Ralph tracks down the escapees one by one. The concluding trial wraps up all the plot threads with an effective bit of poignancy that crowns the mini-series in satisfying, if bittersweet, fashion.
Garai carries the production well with her portrayal of the real-life
heroine. Sometimes the film doesn't adequately embody the many impossible situations it finds itself in, nor the difficulty in overcoming them.
Still, the adventure was entertaining to behold, with well-shot scenery that
convincingly sets the time and place.