By Dave Montalbano
As the longest standing film columnist in Broward County, I’ve seen certain movies like Boynton Beach Club and Play the Game that resonate in our community during this time of the year. Year by the Sea will be this season’s cult movie that neighbors will be talking about.
Based on Joan Anderson’s three New York Times best-selling memoirs, Year by the Sea opens with a montage of home movies. We witness a young man getting married as his parents, Joan (Karen Allen) and Robin (Michael Cristofer) bicker in the backroom. After 30 years of marriage, Robin sells their house and announces that they are moving to Kansas. Joan has other plans.
Taking a page from Henry David Thoreau, Joan relocates to Cape Cod to live her life, deliberately. While adjusting to the rustic life, Joan takes stock in herself and begins learning new things, like running the cash register, digging for clams and spending an afternoon on Seal Island.
As her editor (S. Epatha Merkerson) coaches her to write her next book, Joan develops a friendship with Erikson (Celia Imrie), a wise neighbor whose husband is dying in an old age home. As she copes with her empty nest syndrome, Joan realizes it is never too late to find some time to play.
Watching Year by the Sea is a pleasant experience. The Cape Cod Tourist Bureau should provide director Alexander Janko and cinematographer Bryan Papierski honorary keys to the city. This simple film takes full advantage of the New England shoreline. The setting becomes its own nurturing character.
As the most nurturing character, Celia Imrie steals the show. Besides dispensing words of wisdom with a glass of wine, Imrie’s Yoda-like character is a pleasurable person to hang out with. Year By the Sea is Karen Allen’s movie from start to finish. There are moments in which her performance could have become melodramatic or verged towards slapstick (especially during the early scenes in which our heroine is adjusting to island life). Allen underplays these moments, which makes her character more humane and empathetic. It’s great to see Karen Allen in a leading role again.
Take an afternoon to go see Year By the Sea with some friends some afternoon. It is a positive movie about life, letting go and renewal.