Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young American backpacking in Thailand in search of an adventure that might free him from the normalities of his existence - to find something else, whatever that is. In his cheap Bangkok hotel, he meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle) who tells him about the world\'s perfect beach on a remote, hidden island paradise. Richard invites fellow travellers Françoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and Etienne (Guillaume Canet) to join him on the questionable quest. On reaching their destination, they find a giant field of marijuana - heavily guarded. They push on and are welcomed into a community living in secret on the island, headed by Sal (Tilda Swinton). But living in paradise is not all it seems"¦

The first hour of the film is good; the second hour goes precipitously downhill.

While holidaying in Thailand, Richard, (Leonardo Di Caprio), hears about a mysterious, legendary beach - a kind of paradise - from suicidal neighbour Daffy, (Robert Carlyle) . Determined to find the place, he teams up with a French couple and, after a hazardous journey, arrives to find the beach is the headquarters for a kind of commune run by Sal, (Tilda Swinton) ...

Director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge, who did such a great job adapting Trainspotting to the screen, have fumbled with this version of Alex Garland`s novel. Making Richard an American is OK, I suppose, but giving him two sexual relationships is a bit much. There were none in the book For Australian audiences, the beach itself doesn`t look all that much better than the beaches we have at home. The first hour of the film is good, with a lovely performance from Virginie Ledoyen as the French girl Richard lusts after; the second hour goes precipitously downhill.

Margaret`s Comments:
The combination of Trainspotting`s Danny Boyle and Hollywood hearttrob Leonardo DiCaprio in Alex Garland`s novel The Beach is actually quite mesmerising. DiCaprio is excellent in his role of a young man on a quest for something meaningful who comes up against the ultimate primitive in himself and in others. With all the hoo-ha about Titanic we`ve almost forgotten that DiCaprio first came to our attention as a very gifted young performer. The Beach is very well directed, creating an evocative, alluring environment in which this self-discovering drama takes place. There is a point in the narrative which seems to skip a few synapses but as a piece of cinema it is lush and arresting and ultimately aims at some sort of self-knowledge. So few films aim that high.