Jhis Scottish period drama is “inspired” by real events and adapted from a novel by John MacKay, who says he based his book on something he was told as a child: the story of a newborn baby found floating in the sea near his grandparents. home in the Outer Hebrides. Watching the film, I was struck by the fact that it really had to be inspired by thousands of real events not recorded by history: women raped and kept silent out of fear – fear of being blamed or not to be believed at all. Otherwise, it’s a heartfelt, nostalgic film with traditional, almost old-school storytelling and acting that feels a little stiff in places. Although there is nothing inhibited in the rugged beauty of the Hebridean landscape shot by cinematographer Petra Korner.
It’s set in 1916 in a small-farming community on Lewis, where village beauty Kirsty (Hermione Corfield) wants more out of life than planting potatoes. She is devoted to her mother and sister but dreams of emigrating to the United States with her love of poetry reading, Murdo (Will Fletcher). But first he must go to fight on the Western Front. It is at a ball to greet the village’s half-dozen men of fighting age – teenagers, in fact – that the rape occurs. Then the local doctor (Mark Gatiss) treats Kirsty’s wounds with tact and sensitivity – it sounds like an act of kindness, but he makes rape his secret. She doesn’t tell anyone.
What follows is the familiar story of pregnancy and denial. Kirsty hides her baby bump, but fearful local gossip picks up a whiff of something wrong. The lesson here is that Kirsty’s Little Village is both narrow-minded and big-hearted. Like I said, it’s sentimental, even if the way Kirsty is aided by women seething with fury in the face of injustice feels modern.