SXSW 2011 Review: A YEAR IN MOORING
Writer: Peter Vanderwall
Director: Chris Eyre
Cast: Josh Lucas, Ayelet Zurer, James Cromwell
The process of grieving is different for each person, but the one thing everyone shares in this experience is how time works to heal those wounds. Of course, the length of time varies from person to person and situation to situation, but the fact remains that it is the intangible and uncontrollable process of time, which puts distance between our grief and us, that seems to lessen the blow.
A YEAR IN MOORING begins with Josh Lucas’ character buying a dilapidated sailboat on which he intends to live. Never addressed by name, Lucas’ character is unquestionably a man suffering from a great loss and looking to start over. To do this, he has decided to become a boat owner, even though he admits he knows nothing about boats and will simply “figure it out.” This statement is the perfect summation for dealing with grief. There is no “right way” to do it and each person must figure out for themselves the best way to move forward.
From the start, Lucas engages in very little dialogue with anyone and shows up to the dock in a full suit, giving the impression that he came directly from a funeral. It is clear that the one thing he wants to do, the one thing he can do, is focus his energy on something new.
As Lucas begins to work on the boat, he experiences flash backs to moments with his wife and daughters that seem to both pain him and chip away at whatever composure he is trying to piece back together. Still wearing his wedding ring, Lucas makes it a point to clarify that, despite the stereotype of men who buy boats, he is not divorced. These flashbacks give us a glimpse of Lucas before and how his personality and state of mind have changed and an idea of what he is trying to work back to. There are moments when you wonder if he is holding on too tightly to the past, but at the same time wonder if he must do that in order to be ready to let it go.
It is no surprise to see that as the boat begins to shape up and gets closer to being fixed, Lucas does as well. However, it is the journey of getting through his turmoil that is the heart and soul of the film. There are good days and bad days with Lucas starting to come out of his shell and engage in the few people around him to then turn on a dime and end up holed up below deck again with cold medicine and a bottle of liquor.
With the help of an elder seaman (James Cromwell) and the waitress at the dock restaurant (Ayelet Zurer), Lucas begins to thaw as winter dissolves into spring. The simplistic look of the film helps to further support the feeling of isolation and as the seasons begin to change the film slowly moves from the stark whites to warmer tones. Director Chris Eyre takes care to make sure these changes are subtle, lending itself to the idea of time and how it is not an instaneous solution, but one that must be worked for and earned over its course.
The film hinges on Lucas’ performance as he is often alone, but he succeeds in depicting the different stages of grief that are sometimes so slight you would only notice them when you are consistently alone with a character. Lucas is engaging and shows us a different side of himself from the southern charmer we normally see.
A YEAR IN MOORING is a meditation, intended to be slow and dwell in the melancholy, and I cannot discredit a film for living up to its intention. True – this may not be every filmgoer’s style or taste, but for those looking for a something akin to living poetry, A YEAR IN MOORING delivers an honest look into a difficult point in this man’s life.
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