Reel Life: Flick Pix
There is still room in an emotionally haunted house for love, at any age
By Nora Lee Mandel
My Sailor My Love
Directed by Klaus Härö
Written by Kirsi Vikman and Jimmy Karlsson
Produced by Kai Nordberg, Kaarle Aho, and David Collins
Ireland. 103 mins. Not Rated
With: James Cosmo, Catherine Walker, Bríd Brennan, Aidan O’Hare, and Nora-Jane Noone
Released by Music Box Films - Opens in theaters September 22, 2023, on digital October 24
Finnish director Klaus Härö has the welcome knack for making humanistic movies with grown-up themes and heart, yet without sentimental schmaltz, as in The Fencer (Miekkailija) (2015) and Letters to Father Jacob (2009). In My Sailor My Love, he re-teams with scripters Kirsi Vikman and Jimmy Karlsson (Mother of Mine, 2005) to sensitively delve into both sides of the fraught adult child/aging parent relationship. (Not to be confused in any way with the 1976 Kris Kristofferson-starrer The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea.)
In her small Irish town, daughter “Grace” (Catherine Walker) is already trying group therapy to deal with her family and work pattern of caring for others without recognition. From long hours as a nurse, she’s bringing the fancy birthday cake to the picnic party for her father “Howard” (James Cosmo, “Lord Commander Mormont of the Night’s Watch” in Game of Thrones) in his unkempt house, while her two brothers and their wives flounce through amidst their world travels. With them, and down at the village pub, her father is a lively raconteur telling tales from his life as a sailor. “Grace” is too stressed and exhausted to even talk to her husband “Martin” (Aidan O’Hare).
So it seems reasonable that “Grace” arranges for a housekeeper, albeit with heavy warnings about her father. Gray-crowned “Annie” (Bríd Brennan, Shadow Dancer) has her own reasons to get away from the busy pub with her own adult daughters plus grandchildren underfoot. While “Annie” carries in grocery bags twice a week, she doesn’t bring “Grace”s emotional baggage that haunts the house lined with old photographs of young “Howard” in his sea captain’s uniform.
Proud of taking charge for the first time, “Annie” sprinkles happy dust as she cleans up the house around the stubborn widower. She and her exuberant family bring the home and its owner back to life in sweet scenes on screen.
“Grace”s surprise and mounting resentment, exacerbated by marital and work problems, turn out to be based on realistic expectations from a lifetime of handling her parents.
Filmed on rugged Achill Island off County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland, cinematographer Robert Nordström makes much of the cliffs, beaches, and ocean waves, where the old seaman says the cresting white foam of high waves is called “Skipper’s Daughters”. The family’s physical isolation reinforces their history of guilty separations. Yet even as the film takes a serious turn around their health issues, there is still much room for love, at any age.
Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online. Her reviews are counted in the Rotten Tomatoes TomatoMeter:
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My reviews have appeared on: FF2 Media; Film-Forward; Lilith, FilmFestivalTraveler; and, Alliance of Women Film Journalists and for Jewish film festivals. Shorter versions of my older reviews are at IMDb's comments, where non-English-language films are listed by their native titles.
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