The Shipping News
Time Out saysThere's a significant scene in Hallström's adaptation of E Annie Proulx's bestseller. Friends of an eccentric English adventurer (Ifans) gather on the rugged Newfoundland shore for an all night party to mark his imminent departure, and boozily destroy his boat while he looks stoically on. Tough love. This is the close, windswept ancestral home - full of cruel ironies, ghostly secrets, inherited superstitions and harsh realities - to which the timorous Quoyle (Spacey) returns, child in tow, formidable aunt (Dench) in support, after the traumatising death of his wild, selfish wife (Blanchett). The task facing Hallström is credibly to chart the course Quoyle takes from mouse to man, under the hardening inclemency of this environment. The movie has its frontiersman pleasures. It's fun to see the gradual refurbishment of the Quoyles' exposed 'salt-box' family house, as its ghouls and harboured secrets are whitewashed with the industry of new life. But Quoyle's early moral victories are hard to take unless you forget the docile no-hoper Spacey presents in his New York incarnation. Holding his head sideways like a little boy as he's kissed by fellow outsider Wavey (Moore), he takes 'low key' close to the edge of self-consciousness. Still, he generally succeeds. So does the director, but it's a pretty, shallow victory.