Also reviewed this week: Scream VI and Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom
In late summer of 2021, as Martin McDonagh and his cast were weaving their magic on Achill Island, another crew were also hard at work.
Made for a tenth of The Banshees Of Inisherin’s budget, My Sailor, My Love is set in the present and tells a much more prosaic story.
In fact, I went to see it expecting some gloopy and mawkish melodrama about a twilight romance thwarted by mortality. In fairness, Klaus Härö’s film delves an awful lot deeper than that.
Former Merchant Navy captain Howard (James Cosmo) lives alone in a rambling house on our western coast and spends his time reading, doing crosswords and staring forlornly at the ocean, which was once his working home.
He’s knocking on and his daughter Grace (Catherine Walker) is worried about him. She works as a nurse in a hospital a few hours’ drive away, but comes to see her dad as often as she can.
When she does, she finds dirty plates piled in the sink, piles of laundry waiting to be done. His health is failing and he’s clearly struggling to cope, but when she mentions the idea of a care home, Howard hits the roof.
As a compromise, Grace persuades him to accept the help of a housekeeper, who’ll come in a few times a week to clean the place and make him meals.
Annie (Bríd Brennan), a local woman, couldn’t be friendlier, but is met by a wall of frosty silence. In fact, Howard is so obnoxious to her that she quits for a time. Eventually, however, they reach an accommodation that feels increasingly like a marriage.
Howard’s a widower, Annie a widow, and visit the cemetery where, by coincidence, both their spouses lie buried. Annie watches while Howard ostentatiously lays flowers on his wife’s grave, but hints that their relationship was troubled.
Annie’s marriage was happy, so much so that she decides against visiting the grave with Howard, as it might seem like a betrayal.
All the same, the pair grow close and Howard eventually musters the courage to ask Annie to move in. She agrees, provided he tells Grace what’s going on.
But Howard neglects to, leading to a furious confrontation. Overworked and underappreciated, Grace is having marital problems of her own and understandably feels usurped by Annie, whose family photos now hang on the wall.
Nicely written, beautifully photographed, My Sailor, My Love is clear-eyed at all times, scrupulously unsentimental.
While the villagers coo at this autumn romance between Annie and Howard, we see how callously and selfishly the old man behaves towards his daughter, withholding his affections, refusing to acknowledge her pain.
There’s plenty of it, and Catherine Walker delivers a raw and unsettling portrayal of a frustrated and desperate woman.
While her father voyaged, she was left alone with an unstable mother. And while Howard finds it easy to express his love for this new woman, acknowledging the failures of his past seems all but impossible.
In a challenging role, veteran Scots character actor Cosmo does a fine job of conveying Howard’s complexities, his charm, his bluster, his refusal to take responsibility for the emotional shortcomings that have clearly blighted his daughter’s life.
Watching all this is Annie, a wily country woman who knows what she’s getting mixed up in and does so cautiously, one eye ever on the exit.
Brennan, who brought real feeling to her portrayal of an island detective in the Irish language drama Doineann, is wonderful here as Annie, a woman who wants to love again but knows that, at her stage in life, the odds are stacked against her.
And I like the way Härö’s drama manages to change course and defy one’s expectations.
In a less ambitious film, the sunny course of Howard and Annie’s late love would become the film’s sole focus, but My Sailor, My Love is just as interested in observing the relationship’s seismic effects on the couple’s grown-up children, particularly Grace, a casualty of marital war.
Rating: Four stars
Over six films and counting, the Scream franchise has tried to have its cake and eat it.
The first four movies followed the fortunes of Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a surprisingly resourceful high-school student who’s pursued by a series of ‘Ghostface’ killers.
She and the franchise were revived in ghastly fashion for last year’s ‘requel’ Scream, and now comes this sixth instalment.
Following their trauma at the end of the last film, Sam and Tara Carpenter (Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega) have left their hometown of Woodsboro, California, and moved to Manhattan.
Sam is obsessed with her little sister’s safety and may have a point because Ghostface has arrived in Manhattan, intent on killing the sisters.
As ever with the Scream films, there are lots of in-jokes about slasher movie conventions, amiable chit-chats about who will die next, and Courtney Cox shows up like a bad penny as pushy news reporter Gale Weathers.
You can watch this, but should you? Only if you don’t mind seeing people getting stabbed in the head.
Rating: Two stars
Made for next to nothing in impossible circumstances in a remote Bhutanese village, Lunana was nominated for an Oscar last year and is altogether irresistible.
Directed with a sure and poetic touch by Pawo Choyning Dorji, it stars Sherab Dorji as Ugyen, a trainee teacher in the capital Thimphu, who wants to move to Australia and be a pop star.
He’s not best pleased when his superiors order him to take a teaching post in the high mountain village of Lunana, and an eight-day hike does nothing to improve his mood.
In Lunana, some 5,000 metres above sea level, he finds houses with no heating or electricity, outside toilets and open fires lit using dried yak dung — a surprisingly efficient accelerant.
But the humble and unpolished locals will win him over, particularly Pem Zam, his little class’s ebullient captain, who tells him that teachers can “touch the future”.
Most of the actors in Lunana are real villagers, who’d never seen a camera before. They and their rapidly vanishing mountain culture add a winning veracity to this wise and charming film.
Rating: Five stars