Year by the Sea
YEAR BY THE SEA, drama, not rated, The Screen, 3 chiles
Women comprise the majority of filmgoers in the U.S., but that hasn’t kept Hollywood from enforcing what amounts to mandatory retirement for most veteran actresses. Roles simply disappear for women in their sixties and beyond, with a few notable exceptions, including longtime New Mexico residents Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine.
Now you can add Karen Allen to the slender list of survivors, and she delivers what might be the finest performance of her career in Year by the
Sea. Or, at least, it’s her most memorable performance outside her signature turns as the feisty Marion Ravenwood in the Indiana Jones adventures. Here, Allen as Joan is again irrepressible and spirited, but involved in an altogether different kind of a quest. When her older son marries and her younger son leaves for college, she decides against leading a quiet life as an empty nester, especially after her husband (Michael Christofer) announces he’s taking a new job that will mean leaving their home in upstate New York and heading to Wichita.
Joan sends him off to Kansas alone, while she embarks on what will become a year of self-discovery and personal growth, living by herself in a fishing village along the coastline in Cape Cod. Adapted from a bestselling memoir by Joan Anderson, Year by the Sea was written and directed by Alexander Janko, who’s new to both jobs. He’s still got a few tricks to learn, but he shows some true flashes of talent as well as sensitivity. That’s not surprising, considering Janko has worked in the film business for nearly 30 years, primarily as a composer, writing the score for the wildly successful My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
The music is exceptional, but Janko’s wisest choices involve giving Allen plenty of breathing room and not hamstringing her as an actress. Likewise, he treats the supporting players with a good measure of respect, and they gel as a solid, lively crew, even those in somewhat typecast roles. Celia Imre seemingly channels Ruth Gordon as the free-spirited beachcomber who teaches Joan to explore her passions. Yannick Bisson is quite charming as a young fisherman who puts Joan’s marriage vows to the test.
Sweet montages not only capture the homey rhythms of village life, but also the adjoining world of nature, including a remote island populated by seals just beyond Joan’s creaky rental cottage. It’s not all a bowl of cherries. Besides the potential breakup of Joan’s marriage, we’re introduced to a local waitress (Monique Gabriela Curnen) who is struggling to control her abusive boyfriend. So, there are stormy seas, as well as resonant river bends chock-full of cranberries, in a quiet, philosophical film that celebrates the power of friendships and the yearning for redemption and fulfillment in life.
Clearing her head: Karen Allen