The Real Castaway

The Real Castaway

2001, Society  -   32 Comments
Ratings: 6.82/10 from 137 users.

The romanticism of life on a deserted island quickly gives way to a perilous fight for survival in The Real Castaway, a searing account of one couple's battle against the elements on one of the most remote regions on the planet.

For Martin Popplewell, it all started with The Blue Lagoon, the sun-drenched teenage fantasy film from 1980 starring Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields. Popplewell was just 15 years of age when he first viewed the film, and it burned in him an obsession. "I was spellbound by the vision of two teenagers growing up and falling in love in a tropical paradise," Popplewell recalls in the documentary. "The scenes in this film inspired me to find my own desert island and live there with my own Brooke Shields."

At the age of 18, after nearly three years of preparation, Popplewell was ready to live his dream. His companion on this adventure would be the long-time object of his affections, Rachel. The setting would be a picturesque patch of lush foliage and piercing blue waters off the coastline of the Federated States of Micronesia. With starry-eyed enthusiasm, an unbreakable can-do spirit, and the woman of his dreams in tow, Popplewell was about to embark on an adventure he had only witnessed on the silver screen.

The reality of their experiences were far removed from the fantasy of Hollywood creation. The couple were met with harsh tropical storms, exposure to dangerous sea life, precarious food shortages, and severe bouts of life-threatening illness. The Real Castaway places the viewer in the thick of these struggles, courtesy of the daily video diary they maintained during their time on the island. Intercut with this wealth of survival footage is a touching homecoming of sorts, as Popplewell and Rachel return to the island 12 years later to reflect on their adventure through the benefit of hindsight.

They tested the limits of their endurance, built their own home from the humble resources of their environment, and developed an unwavering bond with the Earth and each other. But they also grew weary from the isolation of their surroundings, suffered from malnourishment, and occasionally felt themselves teetering on the edge of insanity. In short, as the film shows with a surprisingly bittersweet reverence, they experienced the totality of an existence on the fringes, and never felt more alive in doing so.

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32 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Clayton Kelly

    Looks set up,perfect hair,background music,Dads money going down drain,etc etc

  2. Ron

    Nothing to learn here! Well, maybe to read more of the comments before wasting time watching. Have to agree with other's thumbs down. Sorry kid!

  3. Sally

    I think this is a raw genuine documentary about a real life adventure. It took guts to take this adventure. He actually made his dream a reality where many of us never do. I think this documentary was awesome!!!

  4. Kitty

    Had the same desire to live on an uninhabited island (away from civilivation and religion). Eventually did live in the Pacific on an island but not uninhabited as I had so desired. I enjoyed this (low budget, nonprofesstional true life doc and didn't expect it to rival the Tom Hanks movie.

  5. Luisa Reeves

    Ok just finished watching and should have waited to comment. Go watch the documentary. You'll see why lol ? my apologies

  6. Luisa Reeves

    He didn't live on the Island with his love and girlfriend Rachael . She chickened out three weeks before and he advertised for a girl to go with him . A 30 something year old answered his ad and the two then embarked on this adventure together for many years . The documentary is on YouTube under "The Real Castaway " Very interesting Doc ?

  7. David

    I too am wondering if some of you even watched the whole thing before commenting like you did.

    Yes, the first island was a disaster. They didn't like each other, gotten eaten by mosquitoes, overrun by rats, and she left.

    The second island went considerably better. Yes, she got sick and they should have called it. They say as much in the film. Yes, it was hard work keep enough food and water.

    Yes, he does say how long they stayed on that island and it wasn't days or weeks. It was 7 months. They didn't all of a sudden decide it wasn't going well so they should "get the hell out of there." It sounded like they had set a time to leave before this had all started, perhaps with the government, and that time had come.

    They didn't hate it. They didn't "have a horrid time." They actually had conflicted feelings about returning to civilization when their time there was coming to a close.

    He was 18 and wanted to live on a remote desert island and he did. He made a 45 minute film about his experience. I enjoyed it.

    1. DannyW

      How did he recharge the camera batteries? I enjoyed it

  8. HerpaDerp

    This guy is a complete douche wanker. I would sock him in the face if I could meet him in person. His non committal wealthy parents should have .... I'm glad he had a horrid time, maybe that makes me the ******* but nope he's still the *******. I wish I could tell him this, but of course he's has a glass back and disabled comments on the youtube video.

  9. mark

    Nice documentary, he does not even tell us how long he was on island for. Looks like a few weeks at best. And what footage! Almost none! This island proves global warming? And now he's gay? What a crumby piece of garbage this is.

  10. serious1

    This is truely an interesting tale. tall hot blond i watched here too on topdoc and was blown away by the ending. As much as he tried to cover it up, it was quite about him having sex, and the failure was monumental. Surely he played it wrong as wrong could. Now years later she is not hot.. The circle of life.

  11. TheRealJR

    She put that boy in the friend zone early Lol

  12. mrdarklight

    Honestly, I think he knew he was gay the whole time, and so did his 18-year-old girlfriend, who is also gay. When he finally said he "turned to being gay", I remembered thinking "Well, your girlfriend is clearly gay, so color me shocked..." My take on it: He was gay when he was 18 and started this whole thing (and he knew it). His lesbian friend wouldn't come with him to do his fake documentary, so he tricked a 30-year-old woman into the job. She figured out the scam pretty quickly, and was gone within 30 days. Then he gets his lesbian friend to join him. The fact that they never had sex is no big mystery - they both knew from day one that they never would. But he just wanted to make a "meaningful" coming-of-age documentary.

  13. Cali Trees

    This was by far one of the most depressing documentaries I've watched in recent history. Allow me to summarize this awful film so that you don't waste an hour of your life.. A naive 18yr old English boy fantasizes about losing his virginity on a deserted island to his then girlfriend. Being 18 and over privileged as he is (how does he afford this whole thing?) he makes plans to maroon himself and said girlfriend on a island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean so he can "do his thing." Shockingly, the girl backs out at the last minute. Boy then puts an ad out on the radio looking for a female partner to maroon himself with. Finds an old English chick twice his age whose got nothing better to do, and off they go. After about two weeks she realizes the boy is absolutely insane and isn't feeling it by any means, so she bounces. Boy decides to teach in a school on a nearby island (in reality the boy is not at all stuck on his deserted island because he's surrounded by nearby inhabited islands, with several people checking in on him and re-supplying him). Weeks later he somehow, sooooomehow, is able to convince the first girl to come check out his island. Probably by misleading here over the phone. She comes out there, BRINGS HER OWN TENT, they get short on water, she gets incredibly sick and sits in a hammock for a couple weeks, then feels better. After several weeks of not banging and eating garbage, they decide to get the hell out of there and they return home. 10 years later, they reunite on island so he can explain to her that he's actually not even into girls... WOW! SHOCKER! If you're looking for an actual survival story, this is not that story.

    1. TheRealJR


  14. Michael Morritt

    By the way... did everyone think the documentary was interesting? There was absolutely no story, no narrative, no philosophical questions, no action, no controversy - when you compare this to "Inside Job" for example - or some of the Vice Documentaries on youtube.. check out

    The Remotest People in the World

    Genetic Passports

    The Cargo Cult...

    it makes this look like an episode of the antiques roadshow...

    it was terrible.. absolutely terrible..

    Was anyone provoked with any intense thoughts or feelings once the show had finished?

    I realise I'm going to come off looking bad by saying this... perhaps you'll think I'm an intolerant biggot.. but come on guys... this stirred about as much emotion in the film making, visuals, editing, narrative, dialogue, thoughts, as.. I don't know.. a cup of tea or something..

    If you disagree... at least watch Inside Job first before commenting.. for those that don't know its about the finance bubble bursting - and there are soooo many stats, and points in that story that make you go HOLY SHIT...

    The whole of this documentary does not stand up to even one 10 second segment on a statistic on I.S...

    I genuinely wanted to like it.. I really did.. and I'm not trolling..

    I just can't see the fuss...

    2/10 for me



    1. Cali Trees

      Only philosophical question I can come up with is whether or not there is a correlation between the boys eventual sexual orientation and his obvious desire to have sex in extreme privacy.. Such a strange and yet horribly boring story.

  15. Taylor Ryen

    Really interesting documentary...

    ******* SPOILER ******
    This guy shows us just how far some of us would go in our teen years to get a little action. After being inspired by a movie where a young guy gets laid whenever he likes, a young man in England plans a trip for three years. He maroons himself on a desert island 8,000 miles away from home with the girl he likes from school. He's so focused on getting laid that he's willing to risk his own life and hers to get it done. Before it's all said and done, he gets friend zoned... and now he's gay. "I wouldn't f*** you if we were the only two people stranded on a desert island." This may be a documentary about the 18 year old from the UK with the worst game in history. Wow.

    1. Cali Trees

      Nailed it

    2. TheRealJR

      Exactly lol so sad.

  16. csw

    This documentary was quite appealing to me, i had the same dream as he had after i watched the movie blue lagoon, but he had the guts to do it no matter what.
    Yes, there was definitely lack of preparation (but no internet back then with all the info instantly available, and he was just a 18 years old boy), and that last minute decision to take a second choice woman with him was very weird, but apart of that it just blows my mind trying to imagine the amount of great memories (yes, in the middle of some though times) these 2 people may have!

  17. Don Duncan

    The lack of thought or preparation by both "castaways" put their lives at unnecessary risk. This adventure could have been so much more rewarding if they had done more reading and chosen a better, more hospitable environment. Some islands have no rats, flies, or mosquitos, and have a great variety of fruit. Also, why maroon yourself? Sail there and stay as long as you want, living in comfort in your boat until you complete your house. I could go on and on, pointing out all the needless suffering, self-inflicted by lack of prep. If they wanted to experience the raw struggle for existence without modern tech, that does not mean plunging in blind and ignorant. They got lucky and survived, but I heard no indication they learned from their mistakes. Perhaps the fact that they lied to each other, and themselves about what they felt (as admitted on camera) handicapped their cognitive analysis. A more honest approach to relationships and oneself is a better, life enhancing style.

    1. Harri

      Could you name a few of such islands (or areas where they are, if they are too small without names), that have better environment, but are uninhabited. I would like to have a place to go, when I don't want to be around the 'civilized' world any more.

    2. Don Duncan

      About 40 years ago I bought a book called: "Uninhabited Pacific Islands". You now have the 'net. But a course in sailing and crewing to learn by doing would give you an idea about how much you really want to "get away from it all". I moved to Hawaii (the big island) in 1980 and spent 3 months there, mostly alone in the woods living in a tree house. It was a good place to think about my life. There are tens of 1000s of places in the world where you can be isolated when you want to be, but near enough to civilization that you won't be putting your life in danger. Prepare first. Knowledge is power. Jumping blind can get you killed.

    3. Michael Morritt


      Your comments are baffling...and I'm trying not to troll here, but a little bit irritating.

      Did you actually watch the documentary in full? It sounds to me like you watched the beginning and didn't follow through..

      He left the rat & mosquito affected island, following the departure of the first girl... and after he taught english to the locals on a neighbouring island for a short period, he found a replacement girl - and they located a better island that wasn't infested with rats and flies..

      Moving on to your comment about having a boat to sleep in. and living in 'close enough; proximity to other people.. Are you trolling here, to get a rise from someone?

      You know what the name of the documentary is correct? "Castaways" And you know the romanticism behind the whole idea, surely?

      If not let me explain..

      They wanted to be "deserted" on an island - "castaway" from civilization... this doesn't mean you have a yacht parked slightly off-shore that you can return to sleep in... it also doesn't mean you choose an island with people in close proximity... That's kind of the point of the whole show Don...

      Just think about what you're saying... if this guy had a boat fit for sleeping in - and that they could sail away on at any point, and there were people near by.. then what exactly is the documentary?

      If you're trolling, and taking the piss.. then I salute you sir. If not.. I think you're just way off.. actually, you'd have to be retarded.

      With all due respect of course.

      "living in the comfort of your boat until you complete your house"... wow...


      Oh, by the way..I'm thinking about making a documentary on climbing mount everest... would you recommend taking a helicopter up to the top - I mean, why would you walk all the way to the top.. just get out of the helicopter near the summit - then walk a few steps...

      Actually, aren't there more accommodating mountains than everest? There's a small hill near me.. its not cold, there's houses lining either side of it, and there's non of those nasty blizzards.. it just rains occasionally!

      FYI.. I am making a joke.. perhaps unfairly,,, but you were criticizing these people for the very reasons the documentary existed at all... very strange

    4. Niz Wiz

      he's saying the castaway idea is reckless and life threatening. just like the documentary showed. hurrr duuurrr

    5. Michael Morritt

      Are you taking the pee out of me or Don, I really can't tell. The reason the whole idea / romanticism behind being castaway is the fact you have to survive (ie there is a threat to your life)..

      If you have your yacht parked up, and there's people on the neighboring island it's camping.

    6. Niz Wiz

      yes and that concept is stupid and dangerous. what do you not get? it's not romantic to risk your life like that it is imbecilic

    7. Michael Morritt

      Hi Niz.. Firstly.. I enjoy the debate.. I'm not a troll.. So let's try to do this without getting personal (not suggesting you have)...

      I think what i was trying to say is, it's like stating that "sky diving is dangerous".. You know.. Yeah.. That's kind of the point with sky diving..

      Marooning yourself on an island is surely the same.. It's the thrill of the survival right?

  18. oQ

    Interesting that when this was first experienced they had no clue they would turn this adventure into a documentary watched by thousands and soon millions of people.

  19. Rhodia

    Wow..!! Incredible story..

  20. dmxi

    ...should've taken 'wilson' (from castaway w. t. hanks) with them for morale!
    p.s.:not viewable in germany.....thanks!!!! GEMA!!!