There are plenty of returning filmmakers at MSPIFF whose films have screened in previous years. One of them is Finnish filmmaker Klaus Härö whose Estonian/set drama The Fencer was one of my faves in 2016. I immediately got the ticket for this when I saw James Cosmo’s name as the lead and the fact that it was filmed on the same picturesque Achill Island in Ireland as The Banshees of Inisherin, albeit with a fraction of its budget.
As the title suggests, Cosmo’s character Howard is a former sea captain who was often away at sea. It’s a poignant drama that mixes late-blooming romance and complicated father-daughter relationships caused by years of absence and neglect. Living alone, the forlorn widower fills his days working on crossword puzzles and just wants to be left alone. He finds the care and attention of his doting daughter Grace (Catherine Walker) smothering, and he got even more resentful when she hired a widow Annie (Brid Brennan) to be his housekeeper. Despite his initial harsh attitude, he was quite taken by Annie and the two somehow found a close bond. There is some subtle but delightful humor when Howard becomes smitten with Annie, the scene of him going back and forth on his lawnmower trying to get a glimpse of her is adorable.
There are a plethora of first-love romances out there but late love is just as heartwarming when it’s least expected. Howard says to Annie that ‘what’s happened between us will never happen again’ in a matter-of-fact manner, sans the maudlin sensibilities often seen in Hallmark-types romances. The script by Jimmy Karlsson and Kirsi Vikman highlights a very human story of flawed people and unafraid to show characters in uncomfortable, even unpleasant situations.
The first time Grace finds out that her dad has found a new friendship with Annie’s daughters and her grandchildren, her resentment is palpable. She was aghast to see all of her family photos on Howard’s mantle have been replaced by Annie’s. She confronts Annie as if she had been usurped by the housekeeper. I feel bad for Grace but also find myself irritated by her woe-me approach that pushes people away. Constantly overworked, unsatisfied in her marriage, and underwhelmed by her therapy group, the only thing she feels she could control was her dad… and now that too is slipping away.
Härö takes his time in letting the story unfold… slowly revealing past hurts without employing the overused flashback technique. When Grace was young, Howard often left his daughter to care for her mentally unstable late mother while he was away at sea. Caring becomes Grace’s only way to connect with people and it sort of becomes an unhealthy obsession when she demands affection in return.
This is the kind of film that relies on the strength of its cast and the three leads are superb in bringing this very human story to life. Most people know Cosmo, with his imposing figure, in tough, hard-as-nail roles but I’ve seen him display his sensitive side in a number of roles. He can swift between menacing and vulnerable in a matter of seconds, this is definitely one of Cosmo’s strongest roles to date. Walker and Brennan are both exceptional, portraying difficult emotions with such truth and convictions.
There’s a quiet grace in the austere and simplicity of the day-to-day life in this small Irish town. The stunningly lush but sparse landscape almost serves as its own character that feels raw and lived-in. Härö has truly crafted a poignant and achingly moving tale of love and loss. I have to say I connect more to this story than with The Banshees movie.
4 thoughts on “#MSPIFF42 Review: MY SAILOR, MY LOVE (2023) – a poignant and achingly moving tale of late love and loss”
It’s not a genre I typically watch but maybe I’ll give a try once it hits streaming. I do love movies that sets in Ireland, one of the many places that I still need to go visit.
The Irish setting is absolutely stunning Ted! Yeah that’s on my bucket list too.
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