Monday, September 21, 2020
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Starring: Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench, Julianne Moore
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Rated: M15+

THE word nostalgia comes from a Greek word meaning “a yearning to be at home”.

Everything from genealogy, musical revivals to popular fiction and film indicates that the Western world is into nostalgia in a big way. The Shipping News is nostalgia writ large.

Based on Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, this film tells the story of Quoyle (Kevin Spacey), a simple man with a tragic life, who is invited by his Aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) to move back to their ancestral village in a remote corner of Newfoundland.

Like most returns to home after long absences, there are secrets to be revealed and demons to be confronted.

The finely measured performances of Kevin Spacey and Judi Dench save The Shipping News from wallowing in melancholy. There are some shocking revelations lying in wait for Quoyle and Agnis, but we are told more than once in this film that “we have to face up to things we’re afraid of, because we can’t go ’round them.”

In a star cameo at the beginning of The Shipping News, Cate Blanchett is almost unrecognisable as the alcoholic prostitute Petal, Quoyle’s defacto wife and mother to their daughter Bunny, seamlessly played by triplets Kaitlyn, Lauren and Alyssa Garner.

Bunny is meant to be six, but these girls look, act and sound much older than that.

The only other distraction in this otherwise beautifully photographed and mystical film is the collection of varied accents. I am sure remote villages in Newfoundland have very distinctive brogues.

As we might expect, the image of water is critical to this film.

As we prepare this Lent for the waters of rebirth at Easter, The Shipping News reminds us that embracing new life in the future means dealing with the sins of the past as well.

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