The Shipping News
Director Lasse Halstrom Cast: Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench, Julianne Moore


Headline: Movie adaptation does justice to great novel. Quoyle (Kevin Spacey) the central character in the Shipping News goes around making up headlines to get himself in the groove of his job as a reporter. He didn’t make up that particular headline about this movie, but he could have done. Books such as E. Annie Proulx’s are rare, and successful novel-to-movie translations are rarer.

Proulx’s novel of cruelty, self-discovery, and healing reads like a prose poem: there is barely a word out of place. Stripped of the beautiful prose, this movie reminds us how powerful and engaging the story is in itself, and the poetry is replaced by the sensitive direction of Lasse Halstrom, the exceptional acting, and the scenery of Newfoundland.

Quoyle is a drowning man: his self-confidence has been knocked out of him by a brutal father and a callous wife. When the wife dies in an accident leaving him with their young daughter he follows his aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) to Newfoundland and the hometown of his family. Here he finds more skeletons in the family history than could be accommodated in the largest closet. In his fragile state of mind the revelations could destroy him.

However, his new job with the local newspaper puts him in the heart of a strong and supportive community where he finds a sense of belonging and new purpose. He learns about his loss and suffering through the suffering he finds in other people and eventually begins the process of healing.

It is not a movie about Newfoundland, but the remote setting, and its unpredictable and dangerous storms and ocean provide a dramatic representation of the emotional journey and condition of the story’s antagonists.

Review by Chris Page

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