Wendy Hughes embarks on a Shirley Valentine romance with John Lone in Phillip Noyce’s Echoes of Paradise (also known as Shadows of the Peacock).Maria’s father has just died and she’s the last to discover that her self-centred lawyer husband (Steve Jacobs) has been having a string of affairs. Leaving him to look after the children for once, the subdued and grieving stay-at-home Maria accepts an invitation to tag along on a friend’s holiday to Thailand. She falls in love with an intense and unhappy Balinese dancer (Lone), and drifts into a job at the resort where she’s staying. Inevitably, husband George turns up to bring her home.
Jan Sharp’s screenplay was originally set in Indonesia and included Maria’s political, as well as romantic, awakening. Indonesian authorities cancelled visas for filming at the last moment and Noyce was forced to relocate to Phuket. The political elements no longer fitted the story in its new location and were dropped. Noyce conceded in retrospect that he should have then abandoned the project entirely and it seems obvious, especially from the wilted second half, that his heart was no longer in it.
Lone went straight from filming this to his starring role in The Last Emperor. His lilting accent and lithe dancing are testament to his research for the part, but his Raka remains oddly surly even when he’s supposed to be in the throes of passion. Jacobs does it tough with a transparent role, and I couldn’t fathom Rod Mullinar’s resort owner at all (was he supposed to be a predatory gay man?).Wendy Hughes brings the right mix of warmth, naiveté and natural awkwardness to Maria. It’s to her credit that the film works as well as it does as a conventional-romance-in-exotic-location.