In Hollywood movies like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Under the Tuscan Sun, women rebound from bad marriages and midlife crises by romancing younger men. Year by the sea is based on author Joan Anderson’s real life, so it’s not the typical Hollywood version.
Karen Allen plays Joan, who takes a break from her marriage by living in a seaside town to focus on writing. She is not interested in the local man who comes courting her, who happens to be her son’s age.
“I think in this particular film, honestly, she’s not looking to be involved with anybody else,” Allen said. “She doesn’t want to leave her marriage.”
Joan’s husband Robin (Michael Cristofer) may not be perfect but her focus is on repairing their marriage.
“They’re going through growing pains in their marriage,” Allen contitnued. “She’s feeling stuck in her marriage. She’s not feeling particularly as though they’re communicating and as though he understand where she is and what she’s struggling with. They’re in a tough place but I don’t think for a minute she thinks she’s going to solve any problems by sleeping with a younger man or any other man. I think she wants her marriage to work and she values her marriage.”
Not to mention, the young man who takes Joan clamming and swimming with seals is not completely available himself.
“She’s presented with an opportunity to maybe get involved with a younger man and she makes a very clear decision that that would be counterintuitive,” Allen said. “This young man, who happens to be, in the film, married and has three or four kids, nobody’s rooting for that to happen either. Fortunately, in her story, it’s made a very complicated situation. He’s not some free-spirited young man who’s there with no baggage, which is good.”
In some ways, the relationship in Year by the Sea is a reversal of Allen’s character in the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. Reunited with Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in her 20s, Marion (Allen) had first had a romance with Indy when she was a teenager.
Some fans share concern that Indy took advantage of a teenager, but the way Allen sees it, they might not have had a physical relationship.
“I mean, we don’t know that much about the relationship,” Allen reflected. “It may not have been sexual at all. Whether it was a sexual relationship or not or whether it was kind of a romantic fantasy, we don’t really know their history. I like it as a story that for whatever reason, she had this huge crush on him and somehow she felt it was mutual and then suddenly he just vanished and maybe didn’t even say goodbye, was just gone. We don’t know all the little details.”
Year by the Sea is now available on VOD.