Male loners part 2

The Shipping News nearly drowns in outdoor soap opera

The Shipping News Starring Kevin Spacey, Judy Dench, Julianne Moore, and Cate Blanchett. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0

The Shipping News might be the other side of the Under the Sun coin—not just a Swedish filmmaker (Lasse Hallstrom) directing Anglo actors in an American story set in Newfoundland, but with a male loner belatedly getting laid and nearly drowning in the disastrous results.

Onscreen, E. Annie Proulx’s novel not only veers toward outdoor soap opera and fatuously revisionist history, but it survives a disjointed Kevin Spacey performance as well. Hallstrom’s eye for northern landscapes and the vibrantly gray light of Oliver Stapleton’s color cinematography do much to save it, and the acting on the whole is quite good.

Best of all is Judy Dench as one of several characters returning to haunted home grounds. She is part of the film’s sentimental portraits in identity politics, but she also inhabits the character and her accents with great combinations of simplicity and conviction.