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“Return to Paradise” by Joseph Ruben Review


“Return to Paradise”, released on August 14th, 1998, is one of the most shocking and heartrending movies that have ever been shot. It is definitely worth watching. Awarded with Golden Slate, it won thousands of admirers. Directed by Joseph Ruben, it stuns with the plot and keeps you intense till the end.

The plot

It is a complicated story about three friends, spending an exciting vacation in Malaysia. They met and spent unforgettable summer at the beach, full of drinks, luxurious women, and hashish. As the vacation ends, each of them decides to continue their lives separately, making their dreams come true.

One of them, Lewis McBride, Joaquin Phoenix’s character, made up his mind to stay in Malaysia to help save the orangutan. The other two: John”Sheriff” Volgecherev (Vince Vaugh) and Tony Croft (David Conrad) go back home. Two years later, a lawyer comes to New York to hunt down the other two friends. He tells them after they have left the island police raided their camp and found a large quantity of leftover hash; Lewis was the one to take the blame and now he is set to be put to death in eight days. The only way they can help is to return to paradise and both spend three years in prison to share the responsibility. But if only one of them does, he will spend six years behind bars.

Reflection on the movie

This movie makes you think of friendship, devotion, and life itself. It makes you ask yourself what you would have done if you were in the same situation. Those three didn’t know each other well enough to make the right decision: whether to sacrifice three years of their lives to a Third-World prison or let Lewis die.

The idea of this movie appeals to the consciousness of youth, their willingness to take responsibility. Throughout the entire movie, we watch two young men of totally different characters doubting in their further actions.

The imprisoned Lewis has little time on screen, nevertheless, every time it is his scene he captivates. Joaquin Phoenix is the heart and soul of the movie. It seems like he went through his part so much that there is only a slight border between Joaquin and Lewis. His image reveals as the most poignant and suffering.

Vince Vaughn plays a hero who does not always act in a right, morally correct way. He is a tough hustler from Brooklyn. Two years have passed since that Malaysia vacation, too much has happened since then. And, now he has to choose between stable life and three years’ prison? Give up everything he has worked for and forget about limo and apartment in New York? He does not decide once which tells much about his character. But the most interesting fact is that Vince Vaughn is still a “hero” of this movie.

Tony, a man of honor, is a friendly architect demanding from Earth existence a conventional and satisfying life only.

But, ultimately, this is a movie about love. Anne Heche’s (Beth) character’s love is tearing into pieces. She plays a lawyer who is ready to save her brother, to fight for his life by all means. But, at the same time an explosion of romance, appearing between Heche and Vaugh keeps us intense.


There is no need to say that the movie grabs attention. It is emotionally colorful. Though the outcome is quite sad and upsetting and there is no happy end, as many would, probably, expect, this movie deserves to be called a masterpiece.

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StudyKraken. (2021, September 20). “Return to Paradise” by Joseph Ruben Review.

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"“Return to Paradise” by Joseph Ruben Review." StudyKraken, 20 Sept. 2021,

1. StudyKraken. "“Return to Paradise” by Joseph Ruben Review." September 20, 2021.


StudyKraken. "“Return to Paradise” by Joseph Ruben Review." September 20, 2021.


StudyKraken. 2021. "“Return to Paradise” by Joseph Ruben Review." September 20, 2021.


StudyKraken. (2021) '“Return to Paradise” by Joseph Ruben Review'. 20 September.

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