The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
“Swept from the Sea” is a plodding retelling of “Amy Foster,” not one of Joseph Conrad's best short stories. It follows the original more or less faithfully, except for the addition of a subtle element of homosexuality--which, if it had been less subtle, might have made the movie more intriguing.
The story involves a doomed love affair between a simple country girl and a Russian peasant who is swept onto the Cornish shore in 1888, after his emigrant ship sinks on its way to America. The peasant, whose hair, beard and rags make him look like a wild man, speaks no English. He is feared by the locals--except for Amy Foster (Rachel Weisz), a girl born in scandal and working for the Swaffers, a farm family. Amy is thought to be retarded, but it is more complicated than that; she was a student at the parish school for years, we learn, without making the slightest effort to read and write. Then she read and wrote for a month to prove a point, and then stopped again.
Amy and the castaway, whose name is Yanko (Vincent Perez) court, fall in love, are married and have a child. These events are closely monitored by James Kennedy (Ian McKellen), the local doctor, who shares the general feeling that Yanko is simpleminded until the Russian whips him at chess. With quiet hints and lingering looks, the film makes it clear that the doctor becomes attracted to the well-built Yanko, and resentful of Amy for possessing his time and love.
Conrad's original story was narrated by Dr. Kennedy, who is not shy in describing Yanko's physical beauty, so the filmmakers are not unjustified in making his feelings more overt. Conrad has Kennedy speaking to the author of the tale, so that we got a narration within a narration. In the film, the doctor tells it instead to the bedridden Miss Swaffer, creating an unnecessary question: Why does he need to tell her things she already knows firsthand? Better to simply eliminate the narrator and the flashbacks, and just tell the story from beginning to end.