Turtle Diary (1985)

turtle diary 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: They free the turtles.

William (Ben Kingsley) becomes fixated with the idea of freeing the sea turtles at the London Zoo and returning them to the ocean. Neaera (Glenda Jackson) starts to have the same dream. The two get together and with the help of the kindly zookeeper George (Michael Gambon) begin to execute their plan.

Although well received by the critics at the time of its release I felt the film never seemed to gel. The plot is too thin and there is no explanation as to why William got so worked up about the turtles being in captivity. I felt there needed to be something shown in his history or character to explain this motivation. After all there are thousands and thousands of people that go to this zoo each year and none of them seemed to get worked up about the same idea. Also, why just the turtles? If William’s problem is seeing an animal that is not in their natural habitat then why not free all the species in the complex.

The plan also goes off way too seamlessly. What are the odds that the zookeeper would be in agreement with them and pretty much do all the work for them in setting it up to the point that all they end up doing is driving the turtles to the ocean. The story would have been a lot funnier and exciting had they somehow had to do it all themselves and behind the scenes. As it is here it becomes almost a non-event that barely holds any interest. Also, I have never heard of a zoo that decides not to press charges when they find that the turtles have been stolen or not firing the employee when they find that he had something to do with it.

The way Neaera and William get together is equally uninspired. They seemingly just keep bumping into each other and through sheer circumstance find out they have the same motivations. I was expecting something a little more creative and humorous. Neaera’s attempts at getting William’s address is particularly forced and contrived. In fact almost all of the conversations that they have with the exception of one where Neaera describes a weird dream that she had is very ordinary. The dialogue they have while traveling to the ocean is the blandest and none of it reveals much about the characters who end up being pretty forgettable.

Watching them carry the turtles to the open water has no emotional impact at all. It is not even the climatic sequence as it happens with 30 minutes left of the film. The rest of the movie concerns William’s dealings with the other people in his flat, which is mainly pointless.

The screenplay was written by celebrated writer Harold Pinter, who has an amusing cameo as one of the customers at William’s bookstore. Pinter was famous for his cutting edge and provocative plays of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s many of which I found to be quite fascinating, but this thing seems to be the polar opposite. The story and execution is standard while lacking any flair or pizazz. I can handle low-key and subtlety and many times relish it, but there still needs to be something more to it. More quirkiness and humor was needed as well as some tension. The film as it is here is flat and seems to waist a potentially unique idea as well as its cast.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: September 10, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Irvin

Studio: The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Available: VHS

One response to “Turtle Diary (1985)

  1. This looks like an okay film, actually. Though it does feel like too little a plot is spread too thinly over too long a time.

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