Howard (James Cosmo) is a retired sea captain who lives alone, receiving sporadic visits from his extended family and his ever-present daughter Grace (Catherine Walker). Exasperated at his unwillingness to help himself, Grace hires Annie (Brid Brennan), a widowed housekeeper, to take care of his home. As a romance blossoms between Annie and Howard, the strained relationship between Howard and Grace is further pushed as he embraces Annie's family closer than his own...
Romantic entanglements in later life are always ripe for drama. There's more at stake than young love, because the characters have lived long lives, gathered up baggage, have more experience, and are generally more cautious as to what's at stake, and what's there to be lost. Despite its sweeping title, 'My Sailor, My Love' works with small moments of gentle warmth than tear-soaked declarations of devotion. More is said and felt by the two main characters sharing a quiet drink beside the sea, happy in each other's company, than something overt and obvious.
James Cosmo, who's made a career out of playing hard men with a heart of gold, plays Howard with a certain amount of trepidation and reserve. He's aloof with his family, smiling awkwardly when they sing Happy Birthday to him, yet he happily entertains a gaggle of small kids by telling them old sea tales. Even his initial contact with Brid Brennan's character is strained at first, appearing at her pub with a clutch of flowers after he made a hurtful comment to her previously. Brid Brennan, meanwhile, is able to channel that quiet dignity and well of yearning that made her so captivating in Brian Friel's 'Dancing at Lughnasa'. Catherine Walker is able to display years of resentment and swallowed anger in a glance or a look, just as she did in the excellent folk horror, 'A Dark Song'.
'My Sailor, My Love' looks gorgeous, with director Klaus Haro and cinematographer Robert Nordstrom capturing the sweeping hills and greenery of Achill Island intact and with all of its glorious romance there to see. Yet, the script by Jimmy Karlsson and Kirsi Vikman doesn't quite have the same impact. There's a certain amount of deliberate sentimentality about 'My Sailor, My Love' that doesn't translate all that well, and leaves it sometimes sounding insincere and hokey. Not only that, you get the sense that the script was whittled down in order to fit its setting, rather than being tailored towards it.
Still, 'My Sailor, My Love' is buoyed by its strong performances and its beautiful cinematography, and given how romance is so often wasted on the young, it's heartening to see a tale told by those who have lived and know the cost of it.