I saw Visitors when it was first released & wrote a fairly positive review of it, but I somehow forgot I'd seen it & accidentaly watched it again on DVD, so reviewed it a second timne without first referring to my old review. Below are my 2003 review followed by my November 2005 review, as an interesting comparison of how responses may change after a time.
Review #1, 2003
A young woman with funding from a make-up & toiletries corporation is circumnavigating the globe alone in her sailboat. After months at sea, she comes to the horse latitudes & is stuck in calm waters waiting for a wind, daring not use her diesel engine or the intent to circle the globe only on the strength of the wind ends in failure. While waiting for the wind, she goes stir crazy & begins to imagine visitors.
Radha Mitchell as Georgia essentially has to carry this film by herself alone, & fortunately she is definitely up to the task. The script is clever, & while it's mostly pretty clear Georgia has lost her marbles, there are clues & possibilities that some of it or even all of it is supernaturally real.
When visited by ghosts of her insane mother & endearing dad, they really have died while she was at sea & she couldn't've known it, so perhaps their ghosts were real. When pirates show up on board, there is outside evidence that pirates are indeed loose in the area. When strange spidery crabs are discovered on the hull, perhaps it is only a mental projection of Georgia's fear of spiders, or perhaps such a species exists.
She has a ship to shore radio & a satelite phone, so the story does pull in a few other characters & elements, including imaginary telepathic conversations with her hyper-critical cat. So we aren't asked to watch just this one cabin-fevered set for an hour & a half, & the pace is never slow.
Yet in the main this is like one of those one-actor performances such as were occasionally provided with surprising strength on an original Twilight Zone series, like the Burgess Meredith episode of one man surviving nuclear holocaust, or the Mickey Roony episode of the little horse jocky who wishes he were a big man & grows so large he can't get out of his room. When done well, stories dominated by a lone performance can be rivetting.
Visitors is so layered in possibilities that it never flags & never seems phoney. It is captivating whether viewed as a drama, as a thriller, as an adventure film, or as supernatural horror.
Review #2, November 2005
Georgia Perry (Radha Mitchell) is on a one-woman round-the-world sailing journey in the Australian telefilm Visitors. After months at sea, alone but for her cat, & trapped in becalmed waters, she's definitely gotten cabin fever of the worst sort. She begins to experience ghostly presences, mostly piratical or malignant, others possibly helpful.
It's only almost a ghost story since most of the time the story is pretty clear about the fact that Georgia has lost her mind at sea with no one terrorizing her but manifestations of her fears & insecurities.
Fake ghost stories tend to be inherently weak, so I kept watching for evidence of any of it actually occurring outside her mind. Like, her father's visit occurred on the eve of his death, which she only found out about by satellite phone afterward. But largely the viewer has to be rivetted by Georgia's madness. Any expectation of a supernatural tale is bound to be thwarted & render the film unsatisfying.
Meanwhile on the mainland to which she is connected by radio & satellite phone, Georgia's having relationship problems with her significant other (Ray Barrett), which doesn't help her uneasy frame of mind. Other complications & mainland doings keep the story from requiring Radha Mitchell to sustain our interest exclusively. But it's nevertheless chiefly her film, & it suceeds or fails on whether or not the viewer is impressed by her acting & her character's hallucinatory experiences.
If she's insufficiently attention-holding, the film would be lucky to score anywhere between tedium & near adequacy. The script seems to want to imply that losing one's mind is a great way to work out one's personal insecurities in life, as attested to by an author who totally flunked Psychology 101. So for me the best character was the cat.
In the main, we're asked to relate to a woman who is bold enough to attempt an amazing sailing adventure by herself, but unstable enough to fall into paranoid delusional states of madness. I mostly never fully bought it. It's easier to pretend there are ghosts for an hour & a half than it is to believe stark raving insanity is something that only happens at sea & a person's mental health would be perfectly fine before & after.
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