Review: The Beach (2000)

the beach poster

“We all travel thousands of miles just to watch TV and check in to somewhere with all the comforts of home, and you gotta ask yourself, what is the point of that?”
– Richard

Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) is holidaying in Thailand for the summer. He is a student roaming the foreign country, but he is alone. He wants something new, something different, and is not impressed when he is in Thailand and doing all the same things he would have even if he was not on holiday, only now in a foreign country. Looking for more, he meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle), a Scotsman, staying in the room next to his. The two smoke a joint together and Richard establishes that Daffy must be a little loopy after he is told about a secret island which is a true paradise. Richard discovers Daffy’s corpse the next day along with a map to the rumoured island. Richard immediately asks a foreign couple also staying at the same hotel if they will join him, seeing as he has been a little interested in the girl, Françoise (Virginie Ledoyen).

the beach daffy
“I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing.” – Richard

Her boyfriend Étienne (Guillaume Canet) organises most of the transport there, and on the final island they will wait and swim across the expanse of ocean to reach the unattainable island. Richard meets two Americans while on the way. They speak of the myth of a map that will lead them to paradise, and Richard denies knowing anything about it. However, the next day he copies the map and leaves it for the two. Richard, Étienne and Françoise swim across the section of ocean to the island and reach it. However, they first reach a heavily guarded marijuana plantation, and realise that there is more going on on the island than they though. Avoiding detection by the marijuana farmers, the trio moves along, and soon starts fighting when they do not find the rumoured paradise. After a while, though, they are met by Keaty (Paterson Joseph), who takes them to the rest of the secluded community, and the trio makes their home.

the beach friends
“I think in miles, not kilometres.” – Richard

They are truly living in paradise, and soon Françoise and Étienne drift apart, and Françoise leaves her boyfriend and starts a relationship with Richard. The community is peaceful and fantastic, like an everlasting vacation. Richard is in love with his new life, and wishes to stay here for ever. However, life is soon derailed when Richard is asked to accompany community leader Sal (Tilda Swinton) to the mainland for supplies, where she discovers he made a copy of the map even though he had promised the community that he had not. Instead of telling the others, she “buys” his silence by blackmailing him into having sex with her. Returning to the island, Richard will not tell Françoise what happened on the mainland seeing as he wants his perfect life to continue.

the beach map
“They didn’t ask me about the map, so – I didn’t tell ’em.” – Richard

Two Swedish fishermen named Christo (Staffan Kihlbom) and Sten (Magnus Lindgren) are attached viciously by sharks. Sten dies but Christo survives and suffers on seeing as Sal refuses to let him return to the mainland for treatment and then reintegrate into their society. Soon the community locks Christo out as he is killing their happy vibe. Cracks start to show in the community, and Sal discovers the American surfers have made it to their island, and tasks Richard with sorting it out. However, after all sorts of drama, it seems that Richard’s mind is waning. Daffy has become Richard’s closest friend. Will he recover the map and convince the Americans to simply go home? Will the community ever let him back into their ranks? Will he be able to maintain the secret of his affair with Sal from Françoise and Sal’s boyfriend Bugs (Lars Arentz-Hansen)? Will his peaceful life continue?

the beach richard losing his mind
“I had nothing left to offer but pure reflex. Pure reflex and mankind’s basic drive for survival.” – Richard

A 6.5/10 for The Beach. No revolutionary film here whatsoever, but still not a bad watch either. There is a lot wrong with the movie and there is a lot that works for it. Tilda Swinton was very good as Sal, though she was an incredibly unlikable woman overall. Leonardo DiCaprio gave a solid performance as a travelling student who seeks more from life and ultimately gets it and is unwilling to let it go. His descent into losing his mind was done incredibly well. The Beach that they had found paradise on was gorgeous. The way that the story unfolded and showed that perfection can even be soured was very good, because nothing is ever really going to stay a certain way forever. The peaceful community was lovely, though I thought it was a little mad how Richard and company were accepted and invited in with no problems but the Americans were shunned so badly. It didn’t really make sense. The whole movie sort of left me looking for something more at the conclusion but was never offered. I really didn’t like the way Françoise treated Étienne, and I really felt for Étienne, who was a pretty damn good guy at the end of everything. The way the community treated Christo after his attack was sickening, though it was also underscored that no matter how much pain he was in, he was not prepared to let the island go and never return. A point of amusement for me was how everyone was staying on this island, escaping everything from the populated world and all that but at the same time they want the paper from the mainland, bleach to look the beach life part, batteries for Game Boys, etc. That was funny to me. I will be honest and say that I never read the book, and I truly doubt that I ever will because it is not the kind of story that I am really into. This is a movie worth looking into and something you can certainly see Danny Boyle’s stamp on, but truly not really the best contribution from him.