Gemma Creagh floats her review of Irish / Finnish Co-Pro My Sailor, My Love.
Truly embodying this cantankerous curmudgeon, James Cosmo plays Howard, a retired misanthropic sea captain. Howard’s daily life is a solitary one. His adult children are long gone, and he struggles to maintain his dated, coastal home, which remains an unkept artefact of the past. The jocks in the sink are the final straw for Howard’s concerned daughter, Grace (Catherine Walker), and she hires a local widow Annie (Brid Brennan) to help Howard around the house. After a rocky introduction, and a few gruff missteps on the part of Howard, Annie, along with her loving brood of daughters and grandkids, breathe new life into this dilapidated old home. And to Howard himself.
Meanwhile, Grace’s performative caring, along with her inability to place her needs ahead of that of her withholding father, or her demanding nursing job, causes friction in her marriage. Then, when her tentatively constructed identity comes crumbling down around her, she begins to resent this fulfilling new life her father is building. This shifting dynamic rips her deep, barely-scabbed wounds of childhood trauma freshly open. As Howard’s next of kin, Grace’s controlling nature, poses a real threat to Howard and Anne’s burgeoning romance.
There’s so much beauty in this film, a Finnish Irish Co-production. Post Banshees, the wild landscape of Achill once again takes centre stage, wonderfully captured with the skillful eye of cinematographer Robert Nordström. Far from the gruelling battles and exuberant physical performances we’re used to, Cosmo hangs up his swords and sandals from his GOT days and delivers something altogether different. He transforms, changing his physicality in a way that personifies Howards calcified persona, a man ignoring his failing health and denying so much of himself. There’s a real chemistry between Cosmo and Brennan’s earthy and kind performance as Annie.
This film is quite frequently described as heartwarming, and certainly, on the surface, it paints a warm portrait of love between two leads in the later stages of their lives. However, what flows under the surface is far darker. My Sailor, My Love points the lens at the sinister tendrils of emotional abuse, neglect and unaddressed intergenerational trauma between Howard and Grace. This film uses a very deft hand to examine how the cost of these fragmented relationships play out over time.
There’s still empathy bestowed to both of our unlikable characters; Howard and Grace are equally both the aggressor, and both the injured party. Yet despite this, there’s a journey of love, revision, and a spark of understanding – a clever duality managed by experienced director and industry darling Klaus Härö, proving he could transfer that nuance to his first English Language film, not a bother on him.
My Sailor, My Love is in cinemas from 10th March 2023.