Islands in the Stream

Franklin Schaffner's film of Hemingway's last novel is an effective and sometimes brilliant revival of a lost American genre, the family study. The Hemingway figure (George C. Scott, here a painter instead of a writer) lives in isolation on a tropical island, where he's visited, in turn, by his three sons and his ex-wife (Claire Bloom). Schaffner makes excellent use of the Panavision format to define the spaces separating his characters; the quiet, contemplative tone is movingly sustained by rhyming visual motifs and dramatic incidents. The film comes so close to greatness at times that its frequent failures (mostly of dialogue) seem, unfortunately, all the more conspicuous.

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