Castaways (2023)

Rating: D+

Dir: Ilyssa Goodman
Star: Paige McGarvin, Sofia Masson, Samuel Braun, Kate Watson

If you’re going to rip-off another, better-known desert island flick for your movie’s name, might I suggest a more appropriate name for this would be Lesbian Crusoe? For this is perhaps closer to an LBGT version of The Blue Lagoon than anything involving Tom Hanks and a basketball. It begins during a global pandemic, as Emily (McGarvin) and her mom (Watson) are trying to make their way to safety. They end up on a boat, but it capsizes in a storm, with Emily washed up on the beach of a nearby tropical atoll. The only other apparent survivor is Cara (Masson), another young woman of about the same age, and it’s not long before she has come out, and started casting meaningful looks in Emily’s direction…

At this point, the expected “long-term survival on a remote, uncharted island” thing takes a severe backseat to the “burgeoning same-sex romance” thing. Though daily life appears remarkably easy. I mean, I’ve watched Alone, and people there are quitting after twelve hours. Here, Cara and Emily have it incredibly cushy. They find  an apparent infinite source of supplies, up to and including hard alcohol, washing up on the beach, and quickly construct what would likely be three-star accommodation in many Southeast Asian resorts. This idyllic, new-found Amazonian lifestyle is rudely interrupted by the arrival of Finn (Braun), who purports to be the advance guard of a rescue party. Or is he? For Cara in particular has her doubts about the hunky newcomer.

There’s really three or four separate movies here, none of which mesh well with the ones on either side. It begins as an urban pandemic flick, though the whole disease aspect is basically forgotten as soon as the ship turns upside-down. They we go through “survival” and “lesbian” modes, before the thriller-oriented finale, which seems to have strayed in from a Lifetime Original Movie, probably entitled The Wrong Beach-bum or Desert Island Disaster. I’d not necessarily have minded watching any of them, though the hot chicks kissing is strictly PG-13 stuff. However, the repeated shifts in tone completely derail proceedings, with writer-director Goodman unable to decide what kind of movie she is trying to make.

As it result, it more or less comes up short across the board. It’s almost a nothingburger of a pandemic entry; fails in the survival genre because everything is far too easy; the lesbian angle is unconvincing, feeling more like virtue signalling; and the stalkery subplot shows up too late, then is disposed of in a couple of moments. The leads do at least deliver a pair of decent performances, and it’s probably this which stops the whole film from being unwatchable. I was hoping, at the end, it would pull off some kind of switcheroo and make Cara a vicious, predatory psychopath. It hardly counts as a spoiler to say, no such luck. Everything unfolds exactly as you expect, and yet, without any permanent resolution. I never did learn where they are getting fresh water.