Urban Cinefile
"My parents just love to laugh, and my mum would laugh at ANYTHING, so I had the perfect audience."  -Cameron Diaz
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday July 12, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Quoyle (Kevin Spacey) has led a life of utter blandness and silent despair, unnoticed by all, even himself. Until one day, during a lover’s spat, a strange and exotic woman commandeers him and his car and takes him for a husband. Petal (Cate Blanchett) is a fast woman and she soon gives birth to a daughter (Alyssa, Kaitlyn, & Lauren Gainer). It’s when she up and leaves him that his adventure truly begins, with the arrival of his aunt Agnis (Judi Dench), who drags Quoyle and his daughter back to the remote Newfoundland island where the Quoyles came from – and where all their demons are waiting to claim them. But as Quoyle gets into his new job at the local paper, reporting on the movements of boats and ships, he begins to find his real self, amidst some extraordinary revelations.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
What makes The Shipping News so entertaining and so profound at the same time is its lifelike lurches from drama to humour, from wit to woe, and from the physical to the mystical. A wonderful adaptation of a best seller is no mean feat, and Robert Nelson Jacobs (who also adapted Chocolat for the screen to much acclaim) deserves to take the first bow. Lasse Hallström deserves the second, for leading a creative team (from camera and costumes to music and design) which manages to construct a tangible reality of the settings that are in themselves compelling, full of the drama and devilry that accompanies this frightfully good tale. The frightfulness comes from Hallström’s underplaying of the mystical elements just enough to make them real – if that’s not too ironic a concept. But all of this is really brought together by a cast of young and old which, without exception, exceeds expectations. Spacey extinguishes his personal spark for much of this role, so that when he lets it come spluttering to life, it’s like a choir of angels. Aided by some brilliant cinematic magic, his story captivates us – because he is an everyman whose lot is every bit as lousy as many of our own. And it’s no wonder that Cate Blanchett took this role, not much more than a featured support, for its challenge and its dynamics. She grabs this character and lets it loose with the energy of a crocodile snagging a goat – much like Petal with Quoyle, come to think of it. Judi Dench proves here that she can deliver theatrical power with cinematic minimalism, and her youngest co-stars – the triplets who play Bunny – match their elders in every scene. Then there’s smashing Pete Postlethwaite as the grumpy editor with a (minute but crucial) personal stake in oil, Scott Glen as the newspaper’s gone-fishing owner, and Julianne Moore as the mystery woman. It’s a great package in the old fashioned sense of cinema: strong characters and good story. And told with passion.

Review by Louise Keller:
Rich, old fashioned story telling at its finest, The Shipping News is a marvellous, heartwarming story about the storms of the past that catch up with and impact on the present. As reflected in his previous films Ciderhouse Rules, Chocolat and My Life as A Dog, Lasse Hallström excels at discovering the sensibilities and sensitivities of his characters: the contradictions, the complexities, the strengths and weaknesses. The Shipping News is an uplifting and moving story whose protagonist is the underdog, a man so filled with self-doubts that he is drowning. Life's ironies are orchestrated into a symphony as all Quoyle's significant life moments involve water. From his childhood recollections of his father's cruelty in teaching him how to swim, the watery circumstances when he meets his wife Petal, the end of his marriage and the setting of his new home and work – it's sink or swim all the way. Adapted from the novel by Robert Nelson Jacobs, who also adapted Chocolat, Hallström hones each character lovingly, and we feel as though we know each of them. In another superb star turn, Kevin Spacey simply and effectively draws us to him; he is a man who has apologised for being himself all his life. There is never a truer moment spoken than when Wavey (beautifully played by Julianne Moore) says to Quoyle 'You're always saying you're sorry'. We rediscover strength, love and self-esteem in a compelling journey with Quoyle, revisiting the past, facing the present and dreaming of the future. Fluid cinematography capturing vivid images of striking and unforgiving landscapes haunts us, but it is the characters that win us and involve us. The entire cast is gathered from an upper echelon of talent –Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett stunning in an all-too brief appearance (but we savour every moment), Pete Postlethwaite, Scott Glenn, Rhys Ifans. The three Gaynor sisters who play Bunny deliver in every sense and new significance is brought to the funereal term 'wake'. I love The Shipping News – it is a beautifully crafted visual film with enough emotional explosions to satisfy the most hardened sailor.

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


CAST: Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench, Scott Glenn, Rhys Ifans, Jason Behr, Gordon Pinsent, Alyssa, Kaitlyn, & Lauren Gainer with Pete Postlethwaite and Cate Blanchett

PRODUCER: Irwin Winkler, Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Leslie Holleran

DIRECTOR: Lasse Hallström

SCRIPT: Robert Nelson Jacobs (novel by E. Annie Proulx)


EDITOR: Andrew Mondshein

MUSIC: Christopher Young


RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 7, 2002


VIDEO RELEASE: October 23, 2002

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020