This drama about an ex-con returning to his Maine hometown begins awkwardly, but gradually evolves into a subtle, moving film. In that initial, rather stilted, setup, lobster fisherman Eben Cole (co-writer Thomas Hildreth) accidentally kills a teenage boy and is sent to prison, a sequence of events that writer-director Ian McCrudden might have done well to fold into a flashback. The real film begins as Eben is released from prison after serving five years, only to find that his wife (Amy Jo Johnson) is living with another man, and that the local fishermen consider Eben to be bad luck. Forced to work in a junkyard, Eben makes awkward, halting attempts to connect with his now-teenage daughter, and later with an aging man (Phillip Baker Hall) who expresses his own life regrets in a third-act monologue that will stand as one of Hall's finest moments. Grounded in the workaday rhythms of Vinalhaven, Maine, where it was filmed, Islander is a slow build, to be sure, but it's in that fishing town's measured pace that McCrudden and Hildreth, who holds the screen with ease, find something akin to grace for the guilt-ridden Eben—and grace, we're reminded, is a thing a man must earn.
Mariners Hall (left) and Hildreth.
Opens at Uptown, Fri., March 30. Rated R. 97 minutes. Also: McCrudden will attend and conduct Q&As following the Friday and Saturday evening shows.