My Sailor, My Love
A tender tearjerker about a late-in-life love affair and the daughter who can't just let go of past pain.
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“My Sailor, My Love” is good old-fashioned tearjerker in the best sense of that term. It’s beautiful and sad film about love lost and found, and how sometimes people regard affection as a zero-sum game in which they have to siphon off someone else’s in order to gain more for themselves.
James Cosmo (“Game of Thrones”) plays Howard, an elderly widower and retired ship captain who pines away his lonesome days in his house on the Irish shore. He’s in poor health and even poorer mood, barely able to take care of himself and annoyed by intrusions from his daughter, Grace, a middle-aged nurse played by Catherine Walker, who comes by to pick up and cook for him.
An early birthday scene establishes the family dynamic. Grace’s two older brothers are well-to-do and distant, returning annually for their father’s birthday but otherwise out of the picture. She is the beleaguered caregiver by default, and as often happens both the carer and the cared-for come to resent each other.
Grace hires Annie (Brid Brennan), an older woman who lives in town, to visit two days a week and help out Howard. Things are strained in Grace’s own life, working too many shifts at her hospital and not willing to spare any emotional space for her husband, Martin (Aidan O'Hare), who murmurs about taking a job in Munich.
Howard is predictably gruff and even rude to Annie. He’s a volatile mix of male instincts — regret at having been absent at sea from his family so much, but also yearning to still be out there and shame at having lost his position of authority.
Annie has darkness in her own past and is very protective of her own, especially her granddaughters. Nora-Jane Noone plays her daughter, who doesn’t get a lot of lines or screen time but broadcasts the wary maternal instincts prevalent in the bloodline.
Then something unexpected happens: Annie and Howard begin to fall for each other. It’s a tender, skittish, slow-moving affair. Both are very nervous about commencing with a late-in-life romance. And yet the pull is inexorable.
The change, especially in Howard, is amazing — laughing, telling tall tales to kids, clearing out the cobwebs in his house and in his soul. Annie lets her shield begin to drop, bit by bit.
The spoiler is Grace. She is not just surprised about the love growing between them; she sees at as a replacement for the strangled affection between father and daughter. It’s a subtle, twisted performance by Wheeler, playing a woman who has been on both the receiving end of pain and its fount.
The storytelling is sometimes a little conventional, particularly in the last act as predictable challenges appear. This is also the rare film I wish was a little longer, to better flesh out the budding romance between oldsters.
Brennan and Cosmo make for an idyllic onscreen couple, people who are past the blazing passion phase of life and content to warm themselves in the glowing embers. It’s a duet of unspoken pledges and pregnant pauses.
Things are helped by many breathtaking shots of the Irish coastal lands and the lush, sweeping musical score. (Cinematography by Robert Nordström; music composition by Michelino Bisceglia.) This movie is quite the feast for the senses, a paean to the Emerald Isle.
Directed by Klaus Härö from a script by Jimmy Karlsson and Kirsi Vikman, “My Sailor, My Love” is a moving portrait of love — how it grows, and withers, is fed and starved, but never truly dies.
“My Sailor, My Love” will be available for rental on streaming services Oct. 24.