Year by the Sea (2016)
We first see old super 8 films of two brothers growing up, experiencing Halloween in Captain Hook and Peter Pan outfits, singing Christmas carols, and the first day of school. You can hear the mother of the kids interact with them off screen, apparently running the camera. As the school bus drives off taking the kids to their first day of school, the screen goes to black. We cut to Joan (Karen Allen), who is much older now, making breakfast for her sons. She looks at the pile of mail and picks up a postcard that is advertising a hotel on Cape Cod. She gathers up the breakfast spread on a tray and heads to the boy’s room. She opens the door, and we realize that the two kids we saw in movies are now adults. Both are home because one of them is getting married today. Just then, Robin (Michael Cristofer) comes in and tells them to get up; they have a lot to do today. We then cut to the boys and their father playing a game of paddle board. Robin drives a ball into one of his almost married son, and as he suffers in pain, the father says, “Get used to it son!”
We cut to the wedding and the groom making a toast to his parents. Joan walks over to Liz (S. Epatha Merkerson) who is loudly making sort of deal on the phone. Joan admonishes Liz for doing business at her son’s wedding. Liz asks Joan where her book that she is writing is. Joan then finds out that her husband is being transferred to Kansas, and their house is being put up for sale. Robin looks over to his wife who is rendered speechless by the news. As the reception goes on, Joan is drinking wine alone in a bathroom looking at herself in the mirror. We can tell that she greatly affected by this earth-shattering news. We cut to the ballroom where the reception is being held, and Joan is giving it to Robin over not being told about the move. The movers have come, and Joan is spending the last night in her house of many years. She goes into her son’s room, which is now empty, reflecting on her life that she led in this home. As they get ready to go to sleep on an air mattress, Joan pours the two a glass of wine. Joan talks about having not ‘gone on an adventure’ for over 30 years, which Robin doesn’t really care about. The two get into a discussion about getting time for each other. Joan asks why Robin loves her and is not satisfied with his answer of ‘Because you are my wife.’ As her husband goes to sleep, she looks at the postcard from Cape Cod. We see Robin and Joan out in the yard, packing up to cars, as Robin moves stuff from his car to hers. It’s obvious that Liz has decided to go out on her own. She is going to live up in Cape Cod and go on an adventure that will change her life forever.
I loved that fact that this film’s biggest star is an over 60 aged woman. Karen Allen is the best part of this film, bringing some life to a script that doesn’t know exactly where it wants to go. She radiates almost pure energy on the screen and is a joy to watch. She has excellent chemistry with Yannick Bisson, who plays Cahoon, a local fisherman who takes an interest in Joan and even hires her to work in his store.
As good as Allen is, she can’t overcome the dialogue that seems to come right out of a self-help book. The dialogue is especially painful in scenes with Allen and Celia Imrie, who plays Erikson, a free-spirited woman who is prone to breaking out in dance at a moment’s notice. Imrie’s character, Erikson becomes a spiritual guide for Joan is always spouting out advice on how to live. This is a film about self-exploration and finding oneself; I just wish the characters didn’t have to spell out every feeling verbally.
The film is not helped by a soundtrack that sounded like every bad song from the 70s. There are a ton of great scenes of Cape Cod in all its glory, but those scenes are ruined by music that doesn’t fit the mood of the film. It’s interesting that the music is so wrong in this film because its first-time director, Alexander Janko, is an award-winning composer/orchestrator. Janko, who also wrote the screenplay based on a series of books by Joan Anderson, wants us to believe that Cahoon, the fisherman, would start to have romantic feelings for Joan, making the scene where he tries to kiss her an incredibly cringe-worthy moment. There isn’t any feeling that his marriage is in trouble and as energetic and appealing as Allen’s character is, it’s just not enough to believe that he would ever have any interest in her romantically.
Overall, Year by the Sea feels like a Hallmark film that is married with some of those inspirational posters that you used to see in the mall. The film never finds the passion or the heart of the movie, wasting an excellent performance by Karen Allen. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively in Atlanta at Regal Tara Cinema 4
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