A man (Josh Lucas) arrives at a waterfront wearing a dark suit and shouldering a solitary bag. With hardly a word, he accepts the keys to a weathered old sailboat and sets to disappearing. He cleans and repairs with monkish duty and suffers through a wickedly cold winter without ever leaving the dock. That he’s in mourning is hardly a secret, but for as long as the unnamed hero is preoccupied with the tactile tasks at hand—fixing the plumbing, sanding the deck, darning the sails—Chris Eyre’s tidy film evokes the workmanlike solemnity of Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories. But that spell is broken when the Young Mariner (as he’s called in the credits) starts spending time ashore with the Ancient Mariner (James Cromwell) and the Waitress (Ayelet Zurer), two aphorism-inclined souls with their own pasts to forget. “Sometimes when you get to where you’re supposed to be, it’s too soon,” muses the Ancient Mariner in between dockside renditions of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipe. Yet the film stays afloat, if barely, thanks to Elliot Davis’s uncluttered camerawork, a surprisingly unsentimental denouement, and performers who deftly undersell the script’s corniest pretensions. None fare better than the chronically underrated Lucas, whose quiet charisma—and Newman-esque blues—anchors the film in unutterable but unmistakable feeling.
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