When I met you on that great lake shoreline – a land lubber in a suit buying a sailboat with little to say – I knew you were one of those deceptive films that speaks volumes to the heart with but a few words leaving its lips. It harkens to that old parable that reminds us of the power of water to wash away the sorrows of the soul. In this case it is Lake Michigan, a down on its luck sailboat, and a near-fatally heart-broken businessman. When he buys the boat, it is of course, ‘as is’ and when he foolishly decides to just live on it in order to get away from is other life, he finds just how bad as is can be.
Right away, filmmaker Chris Eyre immerses me in the stunning beauty of the lake; the shoreline, the environment surrounding this sleepy coastal town. The cinematography is expansive and almost lazy in the way it takes in vistas and portrays the passage of time as the story unfolds. This is particularly well represented as the dock transitions from summer to winter.
When a few of the locals take notice and turn their infinite patience toward this sad milieu, the knowing looks of wry bemusement and head shaking empathy speaks volumes about this story and this businessman (played superbly by a compelling Josh Lucas). As he is forced to fix the boat to make it functional and livable, I see the cracks in his sanity that hint at the depth of his pain. As warm weather turns to fall and winter and this young man starts to sink into the morass of his grief, ever so slowly does the story of his loss become exposed in flashbacks. It is here that I realize with some amazement that whole minutes worth of movie go by while it tells its deep yet simple tale, and there is not a single line of dialogue to be heard. It speak volumes to the quality of the movie.
As the waitress lends an occasional ear and the mystery of who he is unraveled, his business partner shows up to ask when he is coming back, he starts spiraling to rock bottom and as a viewer its almost impossible not to care about his grief and loss. Eventually, in the dead of winter there is a fear that he may not make it back.
But he soldiers on and as the weather turns he is always working on the boat. Soon, when the old local mariner throws him an ever-so-subtle lifeline, I realize he may just make it. The waitress and the grizzled sailmaker are wonderfully rich and full of depth right from the start – played by Ayelet Zurer and James Cromwell – and the repartee peppered along the way is much of the dialogue you will see in this mostly quiet story.
It is also the brilliance of its ambiance as well, since such beautifully filmed stories rarely need a third of the dialogue that is generated. And so it is with this film. When winter transitions to spring and this unassuming film winds its way to a resolution that seems poignant and at the same time right as rain, I don’t blink, nor do I wonder about the characters in our little tale. This speaks volumes to me about excellent story telling and there is little doubt that this is a brilliant film about loss and what it is we can sometimes teach ourselves that gets us through it.
Fare Thee well,