Review: Spending A 'Year by the Sea' Leads To Many Wonderful Life Lessons

Definitely one of the more endearing films of 2017, Year by the Sea, follows the journey of one woman as she separates herself from everyone and everything that she knows and loves in an attempt to rediscover just who she really is.

Karen Allen, plays the lead of the film as, Joan, a woman who after the recent marriage of one of her two sons and the discovery that her husband has shut down one of his offices, listed the house that they currently live in, and plans to move to another city, decides to reclaim her own identity by temporarily separating from her husband, thus, not joining him on this new venture, and instead moving into a little cottage by the sea in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It is there in this time of solitude that she realizes that though she enjoyed being a wife and mother, there was a "gradual erosion of faith in the essence of herself," and that the only way to get it back was to venture into the territory of self-exploration. Through the aid of friendships, both new and old, she learns that by seeking and "welcoming intuition, thoughtfulness, and surprise, and vulnerability" into her own life, instead of trying to manipulate it herself has allowed for her to begin the journey of realizing that she could actually like who she is and also could be.

Just from this character description alone, you can definitely get the feel that this film has a lot of insightful things to say about identity, spirituality, growth, marriage, womanhood, and friendships; this is where the movie truly shines, in its meaningful content. Though, this film claimed to be "for all mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters," as said at the end of the credits, I truly believe that anyone that watches this film can and will come out of it with some kind of new discernment in regards to their own life or maybe someone else's life whom they know.

One piece of insight that I particularly appreciated about this film is what it had to say about identity, more specifically, the identity of "mother" and "wife." Though, I am neither at this point in my life (we thank the Man upstairs because that is unneeded extra stress that I do not need in my life right now),  it still rang true because it's an insight that I have personally come to the realization of and I know that it's something that is sadly overlooked in today's society. Often times, when women join in a partnership with a man or take on the role of being a mother to another human being they forget that, they, at one point in their lives were their own person, with their own identity, hobbies, passions, like, and dislikes. While, I understand that taking on those new identities means that you now have someone else depending on you, meaning that you can no longer just think and do for yourself, I don't think that it should, however, come at the cost of losing entirely who you are in the process. I know that it's probably easier said than done, but you are are still your own person; you came into this life by yourself (unless of course you're a twin, but, still, my point remains because one had to come out before the other), and that's how you'll leave it, so at the end of the day it's important to remember to still try to find time to breathe and to take care of yourself. I loved that kind of transparency and authenticity to the story. The realism and connection to the viewers that it is able to provide though great acting and dialogue is what really brings this film to life.

I also loved the symbolism that was rampant throughout the film. From the boat that Joan would have to use to get from her cottage to the rest of the town and vice versa that symbolized her lack of control and stability; to the ocean representing fluidity and flexibility, things that Joan would need to learn on her journey to self-actualization; to the choice in loose and colorful clothing for Joan's friend, who is also named Joan (Celia Imrie), that is meant to represent her eccentric, lust for life, optimistic, go with the flow kind of attitude, all of these things, along with many others  were thoughtfully chosen to help reinforce many of the film's themes.

If I had to pick out flaws of the film, it would have to be that at times it does come off as a bit preachy, maybe even pretentious to some. I also think that the film could have perhaps worked just as well if it was shaved down a bit by taking out some scenes that weren't integral to the overall plot, but that's not so much of a necessity as it is me more so nitpicking. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Don't let the fact that this movie appears to be more for the AARP or approaching crowd stop you from watching a well-thought out film with many life lessons.

This film was adapted from the memoir, A Year by the Sea, by Joan Anderson which was on the NYT best-seller list for 32 weeks. It's directed by Alexander Janko. S. Epatha Merkerson, Michael Cristofer, and Yannick Bisson help to round out the cast.

Rating: 4 out of 5