Beautifully nuanced performances underpin an interesting drama that evolves from late-life romance into study of family trauma across generations
By Phuong Le
Shot on the misty Achill island off Ireland’s west coast, Finnish director Klaus Härö’s English-language debut grapples with the rough currents of late-in-life regrets and resentment. Cranky retired sea captain Howard (James Cosmo) – once content with shutting himself off from the outside world – is forced to open his disorderly home, and subsequently his heart, to Annie (Brid Brennan), a housekeeper hired by his overworked daughter Grace (Catherine Walker).
What begins as a lighthearted autumnal romance gradually evolves into a thorny study of familial grievances. Troubled by her own unhappy marriage, Grace grows increasingly bitter about her father’s new relationship. The reasons for her disturbing, self-destructive behaviours spring from a traumatic childhood, the details of which are revealed late in the film – too late, really, to fully flesh out her character.
However, in subverting the archetype of the lovable curmudgeon who can be redeemed by female companionship, My Sailor, My Love traces how male cruelty runs deeper than a mere matter of temperament. This complexity is largely conveyed through the beautifully nuanced performances from the accomplished cast; like the repetitive piano score that sweeps in at every psychologically highly wrought moment, or the prettified cinematography that flattens the windswept beauty of Achill into picture-postcard compositions, the script indulges in contrived and artificial conceits. For example, Howard suffers no fewer than three different health scares in the third act alone, a tactic that feels emotionally manipulative.
Even so, My Sailor, My Love is worth watching for Walker’s excellent portrayal of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the damage accruing from being the perpetual caretaker of the family.