July 29, 2019  (Web Review)

Ring of Bright Water

Kino, 106 min., G, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

The stars of the 1966 hit movie Born Free, real-life married couple Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, were reportedly so moved by their experience working with lions that they became noted activists in support of wild animal welfare, ultimately dedicating much of their remaining careers to starring (separately and together) in feature films and documentaries about various wild animal species and their respective plights in a human-dominated world. Ring of Bright Water (1969), based on Gavin Maxwell’s 1960 book about his experiences with an otter, finds Travers and McKenna in what strongly resembles a charming, family-friendly, 1960s-era live-action Disney feature. Travers plays Graham Merrill, a seemingly stuffy London businessman, who demonstrates a more restless streak when he buys an otter named Mij from a pet shop. Graham soon finds that rambunctious Mij is not a good fit for metropolitan living, and moves with the critter to the craggy, western shoreline of Scotland, where the pair meet Dr. Mary (McKenna) and her dog, Johnny. A growing friendship between Mary and Graham never quite crosses over into romance, but no matter: this is essentially a love story between a man seeking creative freedom and an otter instinctively living out that dream. Directed by Jack Couffer, well-known as an ace cinematographer of wildlife films, this is a visually glorious family film. Extras include audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin. Recommended. (T. Keogh)