My Sailor, My Love


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

My Sailor, My Love
"This an actors’ film, featuring sterling work from all three leads." | Photo: courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

To Annie (Brid Brennan), Howard (James Cosmo) is an ageing man who retains his mental faculties but can no longer manage without a bit of help around the house. To his daughter Grace (Catherine Walker), he’s the source of a lifetime of woes, but is also somebody for whom she is responsible and about whose true needs she knows best. To the village children, he’s an invincible old sea captain who once strangled an angry gorilla with his bare hands. Who is the real Howard? Though this sweet tale of late life love may seem to chart a simple course, there are deeper currents at play. He’s every bit as difficult to fathom as Grace herself.

Under pressure at work, where she looks after elderly hospital patients, and at home, where her husband complains that they never talk, Grace feels overwhelmed by her worries about her father, despite the poor quality of their relationship and his objection to receiving help. She asks Annie to become his housekeeper in order to lighten the load, though she hopes to put him in a care home as soon as space becomes available. Fiercely independent and very particular about how he does things, he wants none of it, but Annie’s simple kindness and the dignity with which she suffers his jibes lead him to try to build a more positive connection with her. Before long, this blossoms into something more – but in the process, it begins to trigger jealousy in Grace, who has a whole lot of complicated, unprocessed feelings which she may now not have time to resolve.

This an actors’ film, featuring sterling work from all three leads. Audiences are likely to be divided in their sympathies as we learn more about Howard and Grace and their various manipulations. Brennan does an impressive job of keeping Annie interesting throughout despite the difficult task of playing the reasonable, level headed character stuck in the middle. Director Klaus Härö trusts his stars and sets the stage so they can play to their strengths. Despite a landscape in which the hills often occlude the view, one can always sense the presence of the sea nearby, calling out to the stranded captain, haunting the daughter who lost him to it over and over again.

The production design by John Hand is excellent. Our first glance at Howard’s house tells us all we need to know about his history, his health and his priorities. A long hallway full of photographs fills in a wealth of detail, and Robert Nordström photographs it with clever use of shadow so that it shifts between white and naval blue. A scene in which it’s strung with fairy lights makes Grace a child again, feeling her way through a magical space, excited and yet troubled as she fails to comprehend adult behaviours. Her contention that her father’s life is falling apart seems increasingly like cover for what’s happening to her own, and yet both characters are engaged in processes of denial. It’s pleasing to see this explored in a way that feels real rather than set aside for the sake of a simple, sugary ending.

My Sailor, My Love, which screened at the 2023 Glasgow Film Festival, has plenty of charm for those who enjoy romances, but it also has more going on upstairs than most similar tales. It’s a treat for fans of low key, character-driven cinema.

Reviewed on: 03 Mar 2023
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A retired sea captain and his daughter must reassess their strained relationship after he begins a new romance with a widowed housekeeper.
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Director: Klaus Härö

Writer: Jimmy Karlsson, Kirsi Vikman

Starring: James Cosmo, Brid Brennan, Catherine Walker, Nora-Jane Noone

Year: 2022

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: Finland, Ireland, Belgium

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