(Waves crash against rocks. We are on the cliff top of Land’s End. Around us, out at sea, distant lighthouses periodically flash their beams in our direction. Penelope and Richard sit on the cliff’s edge, touching, arms around each other, warmed by each other’s company. They speak of Penelope’s children:)
RICHARD: They’re grown now. Let them go.
PENELOPE: It’s not what they want.
RICHARD: Forget what they want. The greatest gift you can give them is your own happiness. (She is silent, looking out to sea.) You know something? I came back expecting to be stirred by memories of our love. Instead I’m struck by the peace and the color – the gold of the sand, the green grass, the sea’s blue. Not a young man’s sensibilities at all. I feel a bit like Lawrence. (Pause. He touches her.) And what was so remarkable about Lawrence, I think, was the complete responsibility he took for his life. He surrounded himself with his colors, his work, the people he loved. He was free, Pen, because the choices he made were happy ones for himself. That was his art. (She turns her face to his, looks into his eyes, and in a moment they kiss, suddenly, tenderly. It is Penelope who gently breaks the embrace.)
RICHARD: You know, I’d forgotten how much…I loved you.
PENELOPE: (teasing) Past tense? (Richard smiles, sheepish.) It’s all the past today. Sophie, the war, you.
RICHARD: But you can’t stop us. We’re like the sea. We just keep roaring on, don’t we?
(She laughs, rises, and begins walking up the road away from the cliffs. He smiles, following, a chapter ending.)
Based on the book by Rosamund Pilcher, this is the story of a family torn apart by an heirloom painting, and a woman bursting with secret longings and memories.
The Shell Seekers was my second movie-for-television, written for the marvelous Angela Lansbury. I was not fond of the book – I secretly thought it mild pornography for elderly women – and the adaptation was a difficult and not-very-happy process. The main change that I made from the book was to have Richard – an American with whom Penelope (our lead) had had an affair during WWII and who had subsequently died – remain alive. Although the cast was wonderful (Dolly, Pen’s mother, was especially well-played by Irene Worth, who garnered an Emmy nomination), and the location shooting in Cornwall exquisite, I wasn’t very fond of the end result, finding it rather stiff and tedious. I continue to get compliments on this adaptation, however. I haven’t watched it in a very long time.