He thought that on the ship he could come to some terms with sorrow, not knowing, yet, that there are no terms to be made with sorrow. It can be cured by death and it can be blunted or anesthetized by various things. Time is supposed to cure it, too. But if it is cured by anything less than death, the chances are that it was not true sorrow.
from the novel
Ernest Hemingway's Islands in the Stream was published in 1970. Thomas Hudson, the major figure, is a successful painter and sculptor who has settled on the island of Bimini far from Europe and the horrors of World War II. HE still dose some sculpting but mainly enjoys his fishing boat, Tortuga. The artist is visited by his three sons, children of two earlier marriages which ended in divorce. For Hudson one could substitute Hemingway since the story is autobiographical in many ways. Denne Bart Petitelerc has adapted Islands in the Streams for the for the screen by adding certain characters and dramatic touches here and there. But essentially this is a very flimsy story line built around the anxieties and sorrow of an aging man who's trying to come to terms with his loneliness.
George C. Scott as Hudson looks the part of a haggard Hemingway. He carries on his face a constant expression of sorrow. One of the movie's dramatic highpoints comes when he takes the boys fishing. David (played well here by Michael-James Wixted) hooks a marlin and for over three hours does battle with the fish. The pathos of the young boy's almost superhuman effort (his hands and feet are bloodied) is conveyed with real power. And since he is the one son Hudson is most alienated from, the mutual respect gained through the experience is doubly important. Once the boys leave, the painter is struck by the emptiness of his life. A visit from Audrey (Claire Bloom), one of his former wives, leaves him stunned; he learns that his eldest son has been killed in the war.
The last half of the movie is an obvious attempt to liven things up. Hudson decides to leave Bimini for America and his two sons there. He gets involved transporting some European refugees to Cuba on his boat and is eventually killed in a fight with a Cuban patrol. Death eases his pain.
In spite of its dramatic unevenness, Island in the Stream contains some good acting by David Hemmings as Hudson's alcoholic friend and Julius Harris as his loyal first mate. Gilbert Roland is featured in a minor role as a skipper who transports European Jews to Cuba.