There’s something about these movies set in a small snowy village in the middle of nowhere that makes them so damn relaxing. It’s so refreshing to see a place where everyone is not speedrunning through their lives like we do in the cities. Additionally, since I spent a lot of my summers in a small village, I guess I’m kind of nostalgic. The Shipping News is an underrated dramedy about a broken man getting his life back together after a move to his hometown. Starring Kevin Spacy and a bunch of other familiar faces, this one just slipped under the radar back in 2001.
That was a time of big movies like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. It’s actually based on a novel by Annie Proulx, just like Brokeback Mountain. The director is Lasse Hallstrom, a man who brought that special Euro-vision to this American story. This is one of those movies you just play and disappear in. It’s going to suck you in with its honesty and authenticity. It focuses on an ordinary man who lives a life that’s at the same time ordinary and extraordinary. You know what I mean, there’s always an aspect of your life that’s a bit strange.
Moreover, how do you define strange in this already strange world of ours? You might say that Quoyle’s, that’s our protagonist, marriage is strange but then again I know at least one marriage like that in my real life. While Spacey was playing a typical character for him, it was fun seeing Cate Blanchett playing a trashy woman constantly looking for sex. It just proves how great of an actress she really is. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that Judi Dench also gave an excellent performance along with the rest of the supporting cast. The movie also takes aim at the sensationalist newspaper articles, something I positively loves.
Meet Quoyle, a shy and timid inksetter in a small newspaper in Poughkeepsie, New York. He’s traumatized by his childhood and especially memories of his father teaching him to swim. He’s also in love with easygoing Petal, a girl who’s easy, easy as Sunday morning. He ends up marrying her and the two of them soon become three, as Petal gives birth to Bunny. However, after some unfortunate events, they will be forced to leave town in search of a new start…
One of the main reasons why I avoid watching dramas is their tendency to engage in emotional milking or melodrama. You won’t find any of those things here. The Shipping News is a moving and visually appealing character study that’s going to warm your heart in a realistic way. Sure, there will be some difficult moments but there will also be some beautiful and happy moments. So, if you’re willing to give it a chance, I’m sure you’re going to love it. I also just want to mention the cinematography that was simply stunning. New York and Newfoundland are two very different places, but both of them look really amazing.
Especially Newfoundland, where they could go nuts with those nature shots. Finally, you might be wondering what’s the meaning behind The Shipping News and I can offer you my thoughts on that. The movie is ultimately about the power of community and how once you’re a part of it, you’re able to move on from traumatic experiences. Life in a rural community might be a bit harsh but it also offers that group sense of direction and matter-of-factness. Something you certainly don’t get isolated in a city where you don’t know that many people.
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writers: Annie Proulx, Robert Nelson Jacobs
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Pete Postlethwaite
Fun Stuff: The movie was shot on location in Newfoundland. Kevin Spacey described it as having only three seasons: summer, fall, and misery.