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“year by the sea” movie review

Year by the Sea

Joan Anderson’s Year by the Sea has been sitting on my bookshelf for so long, it was inevitable that the movie would come out before I had a chance to read it.

It’s not surprising this memoir has become a kind of midlife classic because so many baby boomer empty nesters will be able to relate to Joan’s story.

Year by the Sea opens with adorable home movies of a young family, and we watch the two little boys grow up along with their mom, Joan (Karen Allen), who’s feeling nostalgic since one of those little boys is getting married the next day.

At the wedding, she learns that her husband (Michael Cristofer) has been transferred halfway across the country and never even told her, assuming she would just go along. They have a cringe-worthy conversation in bed that night, when she asks him why he loves her and he says, without even turning around, “Because you’re my wife. Men love their wives — and their mothers.”

Because Joan seems like someone I would be friends with and Karen Allen is such a good actress, I felt like he had just said this to me and it ripped my heart out.

Year by the Sea

So I silently cheered for her when she decided not to go along, and instead rented herself a cottage on Cape Cod just for a little while to clear her head and figure out how to get back to the woman she used to be.

I don’t know any woman, no matter how great their marriage is, who hasn’t sometimes fantasized about leaving their everyday routine and just being free. It’s probably why I became a travel writer once the kids moved out.

I loved Joan’s curiosity and thoughtfulness, and her deep connection with her female friends old and new. The importance of our friends — and our ability to still make new ones — is something I think tends to happily surprise us in our 50s.

Year by the Sea

Joan’s friends (S Epatha Merkerson and Celia Imrie) are strong, smart, funny, independent women who are there for her, whether she needs someone to laugh with or cry with. They are rare to find on the big screen.

Although Year by the Sea is a bit over the top at times, and I wasn’t a fan of the sappy music or some of the woo woo stuff (and I’m someone who likes woo woo stuff), it’s definitely worth seeing.

Who knows? It might even become the Eat Pray Love for middle-aged women, causing an off-season rise in rentals on Cape Cod by empty nest moms.

The movie may not have tempted me to leave home but it definitely made me want to finally read the book.


  1. Now i have to see it. I do.

  2. I have many a book sitting on my shelf with the same promise of reading before the movie comes out — at least you see it in the Theater — I’m more likely to hope it gets to Netflix quickly…sad, sad, sad.

    Sounds like a movie I’d like!

  3. Oh this seems like a great movie! I expected the story to be about her making the new job transfer and location work. What a surprise to know she went on her own to another place. Love that twist! I have not seen this movie and will be checking out.

  4. I haven’t heard of this movie. It sounds like a great one! I will have to check this out.

  5. A line like that would break my heart, no one deserves that terrible kind of love. This movie sounds awesome. I love adventures of women finding themselves!

  6. This seems like a nice movie and I would like see it. I love the idea of freedom from regular life, sometimes that’s what we need to reconnect with self!!

  7. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Woo woo stuff, LOL! Maybe this is a good one to watch at home?

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