The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant

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The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant
The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant cover.jpg
Directed byPeter Andrikidis
Written byPeter Berry
Produced byAndrew Benson
Greg Haddrick
StarringRomola Garai
Jack Davenport
Alex O'Loughlin
Sam Neill
Tony Martin
Release date
  • 2005 (2005)
Running time
408 minutes
BudgetA$15,000,000 (approx.)

The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant is a 2005 miniseries loosely based on the life of Mary Bryant, an English girl from Cornwall who in this telling was convicted of petty theft (though the historical Mary Bryant was transported for a violent robbery and assault),[1] and who was transported to the Australian Penal Colony on the First Fleet with other prisoners bound for Botany Bay. It was written by Peter Berry and directed by Peter Andrikidis. The film had a budget in excess of A$15 million, making it the largest-budget television mini-series produced in Australia.[2]


Mary's story begins in her home, Cornwall England where her village is starving to death. In desperation, she steals, landing her a place on the long voyage to Sydney along with other convicts.

Pregnant by a jailer, Mary is befriended by a quick-witted smuggler named Will. She is also aided by another on board, a stiff-necked, moralistic British officer named Lt Ralph Clarke, whose wife abandons him just as the ships set sail. His help was portrayed as a mission in humanity and social reform.

During a rough night at sea Mary hits her head on a bar and is knocked unconscious only to be saved by Will, with whom she becomes increasingly passionate. She is also cared for by Lt Clarke. Unaware that she is “with child”, Clarke asks permission from the Captain to let Mary stay with him. He believes that by educating her, he can reform her. Clarke has promised "the girl will remain an innocent under his charge" so, after finding out that she is pregnant, Clarke takes his anger out on one of the other female convicts (who insulted him) with a lash. Angered by his heartless act, Mary returns to the cells with the other prisoners.

After giving birth to her daughter on the ship, Mary and the other convicts arrive at Botany Bay. Mary named her daughter Charlotte, "after the ship". Seeing the benefits of being a family, Mary soon marries Will and they have a son Emmanuel. Her determination is always to avoid the hunger of her upbringing and to save her children from a similar fate.

Mary "abandons" her husband to live with Clarke who had been infatuated with her ever since she stayed with him on the ship. This is merely a distraction so her husband and their friends can steal food and supplies. After getting everything they need to escape in the Governor's cutter, Mary slips away from Clarke in the middle of the night. Infuriated that Mary deceived him and again deserted him, Clarke shoots at and tries to sink their boat. They escape with only minor damage to the boat.

Mary, her husband Will, their two children, and five other men set sail for Timor, closely followed by Clarke who obsessively pursues them. Through sheer grit and enormous luck, most of them make it 4,000 miles to the Dutch colony of Timor where for a time they enjoy the luxury of freedom under false identities.

However, fate conspires against them as Clarke stops there on his way back to England. The group flee Clarke and his guards, splitting up to avoid being caught. Will, realising the danger that Mary and the children are in, intentionally leads the guards away from his frightened family. Pursued by the jealous Clarke, Will is eventually shot and killed.

An intense meeting between Mary and Clarke in the tropical jungle finds Clarke holding a pistol to Mary's head. Mary again tries to manipulate the lovesick Clarke in order to save her children. Realising that she does not love him and only used him to survive, Clarke fires his pistol into the air, alerting nearby guards of their whereabouts causing Mary to be arrested.

On the journey home to England, where Mary and her two surviving escapees are imprisoned once again, she loses both of her children to shipboard diseases. An emotional Mary lets go of her son and daughter, dropping them into the open sea, as she says farewell to the rest of her family.

On arrival in England, a charismatic Mary gains the support of the English public as she retells her story of the search for justice, in which she lost her entire family. The courts decide to free Mary and her companions in appreciation of their honesty and the belief that they had learned their initial lesson. As for Clarke, he is left in England carrying the burden of being responsible for the death of Will, Charlotte, and Emmanuel. He is also forced to live in disgrace as many people, including his superiors, believe that his unjust actions against Mary was due to his obsession with her. As Mary stands once again in Cornwall where her story began, she reflects on the short time of her family, and the lack of freedom symbolised through the death of her beloved. She silently agrees to carry on for the sake of their deceased souls, despite not knowing what the future holds anymore.


Character Actor
Mary Romola Garai
Clarke Jack Davenport
Will Alex O'Loughlin
Gov. Phillip Sam Neill
Martin Tony Martin
Thomas David Field
Rev. Johnson Garry McDonald
Cox Dan Spielman
Allen Stephen Curry
Sam Abe Forsythe
Elizabeth Alice McConnell
Sgt. Ryan Linal Haft


Director Peter Andrikidis
Writer Peter Berry
Producers Andrew Benson,
Greg Haddrick
Executive Producers Sue Masters,
Peter Berry,
Andy Harries,
Des Monaghan,
Justin Bodle
Director of Photography Joe Pickering
Production Designer Tim Ferrier
Costume Designer Louise Wakefield
Editor Henry Damgar
Composer Iva Davies

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Recipient Result Ref
AFI Awards Best Television Mini Series or Telefeature Won
Best Direction in Television Peter Andrikidis Nominated
Best Screenplay in Television Peter Berry Nominated
Best Lead Actor in Television Alex O'Loughlin Nominated
Best Lead Actress in Television Romola Garai Nominated
Best Guest or Supporting Actress in Television Alice McConnell Nominated
Best Production Design Tim Ferrier Nominated
Chicago International Film Festival Gold Plaque for Best Mini-Series Won [3]
Best Achievement in Direction Peter Andrikidis Won
Logie Awards Most Outstanding Actor in a Series Alex O'Loughlin Nominated
Most Outstanding Actress in a Series Romola Garai Nominated
Most Outstanding Mini Series or Telemovie Won [4]


  1. ^ Causer, Tim (2017). Memorandoms by James Martin: An Astonishing Escape from Early New South Wales. London: UCL Press. p. 3. ISBN 9781911576815.
  2. ^ "Davenport sets sail again for TV". BBC News. 15 April 2006.
  3. ^ "Awards and Festival Selection for FFC – Financed Productions". Screen Australia. May 2006.
  4. ^ "Awards and Festival Selection for FFC – Financed Productions". Screen Australia. June 2006.

External links[edit]