Review: Year by the Sea

I know there are not enough great roles for women of a certain age, but could someone please write something good for Karen Allen (Indiana Jones, Starman) to act in. Year by the Sea isn’t it. She is so much better than this. In it, she plays a cliched wife/mother whose son just got married and whose husband sells the house without telling her he’s been relocated, just expecting she’ll go along. And so she feels very unmoored and decides to “find herself” by moving to a cabin on an island somewhere up on Cape Cod. Based on a book of the same name, the film is a jumble of tired tropes on menopausal women and empowerment, set against a soundtrack of the songs you were happy to have forgotten from your youth. I cannot imagine why it was made.

Joan (Allen) finds the cabin serendipitously through a mailer and rediscovers it just as her household is being shipped away to the new location. And just like that she tells her husband that she is going away – alone. And once she gets to the town, she makes instant friends with just about everyone she meets and gets a job in a fish market. The house is pretty bare bones and she has to take a rowboat to and from it. She is supposed to be working on a book, but you never see her write a word. Apparently, she’s becoming herself again. And after a year, she’s ready to begin again.

The book was apparently a bestseller, so I can see why it was made. But the script is just plain bad. Karen Allen is as fun to watch as she ever was, but I was truly sad to see her and a host of other fine actors having to speak the lines they were given. There probably was a sweet, perceptive film to made from the book, about women who give everything to their families only to lose themselves in the process. Unfortunately, the writer/director Alexander Janko didn’t understand the book or have the ability to convey the feelings that Joan felt throughout the year of her renewal. It’s sad all around. Skip this one and maybe read the book.

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