When Cape Cinema in Dennis re-opens after a two-week renovation, the first movie to premiere will be a special one that was filmed entirely on Cape Cod.and more »
Apr 29, 2017 at 10:01 AM
By Laurie Higgins
When Cape Cinema in Dennis re-opens after a two-week renovation, the first movie to premiere will be a special one that was filmed entirely on Cape Cod.
“Year by the Sea,” the movie based on Harwich author Joan Anderson’s bestselling memoir “A Year by the Sea,” has finally made its way to Cape Cod after opening in nine theaters in Florida in February. It’s been a long road getting here, but Anderson is thrilled with the results.
“This was a journey,” she says. “It was a seven-year ordeal that started with this guy coming to the door and saying I want to make a film about your book.”
The guy was director Alexander Janko, who had done film scores for movies such as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” He told Anderson that his ex-wife found a copy of her book at a dump in Western Mass. She never read the book, but he did.
Its first line drew him in: “The decision to separate seemed to happen overnight.”
“When Xandy first came to see me that day, I took him around to show him all the sites in my life and he knew there was a picture to make here,” she says. “Cape Cod became a character in the film, even though it was more expensive to stay here because of labor union rules. After 60 miles from Boston, you have to pay more, but the director was determined to stay on Cape Cod.”
Once things fell into place with the financing for the independent film, it was like serendipity took over. While out on North Beach at Nauset scouting for a beach shack that might work as the cottage Anderson retreated to for a year to learn who she was after 30 years of marriage and raising children, a woman approached them and asked why they were out on the beach in the middle of winter.
When they explained, she showed them her properties in East Orleans, which included a waterfront beach shack, a house that served as Anderson’s mentor Joan Erikson’s home and another house that served as Anderson’s former home in Nyack, Conn. The woman offered all three for free.
The Cape has changed a lot since Anderson spent her year of discovery in 1994. She and her husband, Robin Wilkins, the former selectman in Harwich, wanted the film to recreate that simpler time. With that in mind, they chose the town of Wellfleet for the main town in the film because it hasn’t changed as much as other towns on the Cape.
Actress Karen Allen plays Joan in the film and Michael Cristopher plays Robin. They were both on the set every day watching the film about their lives take shape.
“It was actually a little scary to see some of the scenes because I really was kind of hard on Robin,” she says. “It was very hard on him going through the whole shoot. It was a very difficult time in our marriage.”
Her favorite scene in the movie is when Allen takes Cristopher out to the dunes to try to show him what she is experiencing. She asks him to dance and he refuses. When they get back to the car, Cristopher says, “You’ve changed. It’s like you’ve gone wild or something.”
Allen looks at him with disappointment on her face and replies, “I think I just started to like who I could be.”
That is the moment when her husband realized that she really had changed and she wasn’t going to go back to their old life and routine.
Anderson’s book continues to sell well and has been translated into 18 languages. She believes its success is due to the fact that her story is every woman’s story. But the film also speaks to men because reclaiming your life is a universal message.
“Every woman and every man goes through this again and again,” she says. “Who am I beyond the roles I play? Can I have my life please, at least a little bit of it?”
If You Go
What: ‘Year by the Sea,’ a film based on Joan Anderson’s memoir ‘A Year by the Sea’
When: May 5 to 18
Where: Cape Cinema, 35 Hope Lane, Dennis
Admission: $9.50 adults, $7.50 seniors and club members, $6 children and senior club members
Information: 508-385-5644 or capecinema.com
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