Movie Review: ‘YEAR BY THE SEA’ finds itself lost in the ocean of its genre

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Kip Mooney // Film Critic

YEAR BY THE SEA

Not Rated, 114 minutes
Director: Alexander Janko
Cast: Karen AllenS. Epatha MerkersonCelia ImrieYannick Bisson and Monique Gabriela Curnen

I’d be OK if I never saw another movie about a charming small town and its quirky inhabitants. But I’m always desperate to see more movies starring older people. That makes YEAR BY THE SEA a mixed bag.

Karen Allen plays Joan, loosely based on writer Joan Anderson. She and her husband Robin (Michael Cristofer) decide to separate after his job moves to Omaha. He follows the work, she follows her heart, moving to a seaside town in Cape Cod.

Of course there’s an adjustment period. In her semi-pampered life, she never had to row a boat or pump her own water. But the separation also strains their marriage even more, making the barrier between them more than physical.

In the meantime, she learns a lot from a local fisherman (Yannick Bisson), though thankfully the movie has more on its mind than a May-December romance. She also comes to life when she meets Erikson, a woman her age who’s essentially a widow (her husband lives semi-comatose at a local nursing home).

But sadly, the script never gives the characters as much depth as these talented actors deserve. First-time screenwriter Alexander Janko – who previously worked in the music department for some of the worst movies of the ’90s – just strands the cast, leaving them to do the heavy lifting.

Great movies about the joy and pain of getting older have been done before: last year’s THE MEDDLER and 2007’s AWAY FROM HER among them. But to make it memorable, it takes more than just barely sketched characters and sad or awkward scenes.

YEAR BY THE SEA doesn’t do enough to get there.

Grade: C+

YEAR BY THE SEA is now playing in select New York theaters, and expands in the weeks following, including Los Angeles on Sept. 15.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.