Love Movie

My Sailor, My Love

At the heart of “My Sailor, My Love,” the English language debut from Finnish filmmaker Klaus Härö, is a prickly tale of familial love gone sour and romantic love found almost too late. Although it attempts to tackle the heavy theme of generational trauma, it too often forgoes the more insightful aspects of its family drama in favor of an overly trite twilight romance.

Härö opens his film at group therapy, where women open up to each other about their life traumas. When it’s time for Grace (Catherine Walker) to share, she clams up, unable to voice what has brought her to the group. The film then shifts to a sweeping tracking shot of coastal Ireland, following Grace’s car to an isolated home right on the seashore. 

Here, we meet her cantankerous father, Howard (James Cosmo), a widowed sea captain who spends his days weaving and telling tall tales. It’s his birthday party, but Howard hasn’t even finished washing the dirty laundry he left in the sink. Her brothers arrive with tales of trips abroad but don’t bother to help Grace with the festivities. Howard even refuses to eat a slice of the elaborate chocolate cake Grace brought. It’s clear Grace’s traumas stem from the unhealthy dynamics at play in this splintered family. 

Fed up with his mess, Grace posts an ad at the local pub for a housekeeper, almost immediately hiring the gregarious older woman Annie (Bríd Brennan). When Annie cooks and cleans and chats about her grandkids, the gruff Howard insults her, and she leaves. Only to, of course, be wooed back by Howard’s apology and a bouquet of flowers. 

The rest of the film cuts back and forth between Grace’s disintegrating life as she loses her job and her husband and Howard and Annie’s burgeoning relationship. It’s the stuff of high melodrama but mostly played at a very muted pace. Grace and her husband have calm, cooled, collected fights rather than rage. Howard and Annie fall for each other through small, shared moments. 

While this all sounds very mature, the execution, especially with the romance, sorely lacks in subtlety. At one point, while picking apples, Howard and Annie reach for the same apple, and their hands graze. There is no hint of irony in how this hackneyed moment is filmed or employed. Aside from a little bit of chemistry and his ability to make her grandkids laugh, it’s hard to see what Annie sees in Howard. In fact, both characters are developed with such broad strokes, their personalities and histories so vague, what depth they contain comes solely from what Cosmo and Brennan bring with their quietly calibrated performances. 

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