Year by the Sea (NR)

Comedy 114 min. September 8, 2017
By Alan Scherstuhl
Alexander Janko's adaptation of Joan Anderson's lyric finding-herself memoir A Year By the Sea stiffs as drama but it might serve as a welcome holiday. The acting is sometimes spotty, everyone says things you can't believe a person would say, the scenes go where you expect them to, there's far too many montage sequences of Cape Cod flora and fauna set to strummy folk pop, and the insights ("we're all as unfinished as the shoreline along the beach") come barnacled over in uncertain sea metaphors. "I feel a bit like a boat -- adrift, with nothing to steady me," the film's Joan Anderson (Karen Allen) says, and everyone's nice enough not to tell her about rudders and anchors. For all that, as it charts its familiar course, the film has soothing, even therapeutic value. It's less the story of a woman taking a year off from city life and her husband than it is a pleasant revue of sketches and scenarios on that topic.

So, we get Allen rowing her dinghy through sea fog or staring at seagulls or wading with seals. Her delight at the wildlife plays like the reaction of a friend you're hiking with, not like an actor's; her smile splits her face, and it might split yours, too. The low-key aimlessness makes up for the occasional pratfall. Allen's character takes up weaving, finds employment in a fish shop, haunts a rambling old house, enlists friends (S. Epatha Merkerson and Celia Imrie) to dash through town and leap into cold water for one of those "polar bear" dives, and proclaims, atop a lighthouse, "This would be a great place for a vision quest!"
Alexander Janko Karen Allen, Yannick Bisson, S. Epatha Merkerson, Michael Cristofer, Cela Imrie Alexander Janko, Joan Anderson Laura Goodenow Real Women Make Waves

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