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Year by the Sea (2016)

Unrated | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 8 September 2017 (USA)
Hoping to reclaim who she was before marriage and children, an empty nester retreats to Cape Cod where she embarks upon a quest to set herself free.


Alexander Janko


Joan Anderson (book), Alexander Janko (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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18 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Karen Allen ... Joan
Celia Imrie ... Erikson
Yannick Bisson ... Cahoon
Monique Gabriela Curnen ... Luce
S. Epatha Merkerson ... Liz
Anastasia Tsikhanava ... Tony
Jane Hajduk ... Judy
Michael Cristofer ... Robin
Amy Van Nostrand ... Brenda
Andria Blackman ... Mannequin woman
Tyler Haines ... Andrew
Zachariah Supka ... Joseph
Alvin Epstein Alvin Epstein ... Erik Erikson
Colleen Kelly ... We Can Mentor
George J. Vezina ... Fisherman #2


Hoping to reclaim who she was before marriage and children, an empty nester retreats to Cape Cod where she embarks upon a quest to set herself free.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

based on true story | See All (1) »


It's never too late to reclaim your life...


Comedy | Drama | Romance








Release Date:

8 September 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Year By The Sea See more »

Filming Locations:

Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA

Company Credits

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Filmed on location in Cape Cod. See more »

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User Reviews

Watered Down Sea Story
23 June 2018 | by drednmSee all my reviews

YEAR BY THE SEA (2016) is a pretty and pretty empty account of a "middle-aged" woman (and writer) who leaves her husband to rent a rustic cottage on Cape Cod to find herself. Good enough premise, but the Cape Cod she finds with its deserted towns, empty beaches, and retro cottage are all unrealistic, and that throws off the story. This one has everything but Patti Page singing "Old Cape Cod." Actually that might have worked better, to place the story in the 1950s. But I guess women didn't go "find themselves" in the 50s. The other old saw is that the locals immediately take Joan (Karen Allen) into their inner circle (ain't likely) so that she becomes involved in everyone's lives from the getgo. Anyway, she rents a cottage on a small island just off shore so that she has to row back and forth in a small dinghy.

While her husband back in the USA has been transferred to Wichita, she is befriended by a local free spirit named Joan (Celia Imrie) whose husband is dying in a hospice. Since they are both named Joan, they become instant best friends. You can tell Joan is a free spirit because she dances on one of those empty beaches and has a chuck wagon triangle hanging outside her front door rather than a doorbell. There's also the young woman who runs the little general store. She is a battered woman just waiting for someone to rescue her. Then there's the very friendly fisherman (Yannick Bisson) who takes an instant shine to Joan One (rather than Joan Two).

When the crabby husband (Michael Cristofer) comes to visit, all he does is complain about the rustic-ness of the place. When her friend/agent (S. Epatha Merkerson) comes to visit, all she does is complain that Joan One is not writing). Eventually the cliches overwhelm the story. To its credit, no one collects sea glass, but they do raid someone's house for firewood.

Much is made of the "off season," but it looks exactly like the "in season" part of the film. Mostly filmed in Wellfleet, the idyllic landscape in late summer/early fall would be jammed with tourists, but all we see are empty streets and no tourists ... not even one. Eventually both Joans have breakthroughs and start writing again (Joan Two is also a writer), and the film ends with the Joans scribbling and typing like mad. This makes Merkerson very happy since she seems to have acquired Joan Two as a client.

The only time we see any local inhabitants (as in extras) is when they have some sort of bizarre "race to the sea" on New Years Day. Despite its being January, they wear funny costumes and the race seems to be limited to women. I don't remember my Aunt Shirley (who still lives on the Cape) ever racing to the sea in costume our out of costume. Later, when the fisherman teaches Joan One how to clam, it's so hot he has to take off his shirt. That climate change thing must be going crazy on the Cape. I spent several summers in Falmouth when I was a kid. Even around 1960, this Cape Cod did not exist but the remnants of "old Cape Cod" were there and I remember them well.

Anyway, it was a nice try. Story is from a book by Joan Anderson (Joan Three) and directed by Alexander Janko (who seems to be primarily a musician and who graduated Princeton in 1991). To say this sea story has been watered down would be a cheap shot.

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