“Gosh, it’s good to be home. And everything’s the same. That’s what’s so wonderful about the island. Nothing ever changes.” – Joanna, High Tide at Noon
On an island off of the coast of Nova Scotia, the lifestyle of lobster fishermen is rugged but contented. The fishermen rent their homes and businesses from the Mackenzies, a wealthy family by whom much of the island is owned. They work hard, but they enjoy their work, an they love no place more than they love their island, which is appropriately known as Mackenzies’ Island.
Joanna (Betta St. John), daughter to the Mackenzies, has returned to the island after a couple of years away at school on the mainland. She’s 17 years old and attracts the attention of many suitors: the rebellious “trash,” Simon Breck (Patrick McGoohan); the nice guy, Nils Sorenson (Michael Craig); and the poet, Alec Douglas (William Sylvester).
Simon is demanding and disrespectful, and Joanna only sees Nils as a brother-figure, so she quickly falls in love with Alec and marries him. Unfortunately, this choice between suitors leads Joanna down a path of destruction when Alec turns out to have a gambling addiction and quickly uses up all of their savings.
As Joanna struggles, so do the lobster fishermen who live on the island as their fishing begins to suffer.
The ups and downs of these islanders’ personal and professional lives play out in High Tide at Noon, a 1957 British drama shot on location in Nova Scotia. The film was directed by Philip Leacock and the script was written by Neil Paterson from a novel by Elisabeth Ogilvie. It was entered to the Festival de Cannes in 1957.
It was a great choice on part of the filmmakers to shoot parts of the film in Nova Scotia. The location shooting is beautiful. The waterfront looks stunning in black and white, and these shots are not only beautiful, but give the film a realistic angle that it would not have had if the settings were recreated in a studio or elsewhere. Since the island and the characters’ love for it is at the heart of the film, it was a smart decision to showcase the real environment.
Also a smart choice was casting Betta St. John as Joanna. St. John brings a naivety and sensitivity to her character that works very well for the film. She reminds me a bit of Leslie Caron.
Though St. John’s performance is the stand-out of the film, the cast across the board is solid. There are no award-worthy moments of high drama to be had here, but every person fills their role well, giving the story a decent level of emotional impact.
High Tide at Noon moves along a bit slowly, but it still offers an interesting family saga. We don’t just get to see Joanna and her romantic misadventures; we get to see the troubles faced by many of her friends and family members, economically and personally. Fans of Our Town and other small-town family dramas will enjoy this one. The score: 3/5