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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.