It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The movie follows the experiences of Quoyle (Kevin Spacey), a meek ink-man for the Poughkeepsie News, as he marries Petal, the local tramp (Cate Blanchett), has a daughter named Bunny, raises Bunny while Petal sluts around, and then raises her alone after Petal dies, not so really very tragically if you think about it. About this time he finds a message on his answering machine from his father, informing him, "It's time for your mother and I to put an end to it." That these tragedies range in emotional value from ironic to funny gives you the temperature of the film.
Quoyle and Bunny might have lived on forever in Poughkeepsie, she washing the ink from his coveralls, if Aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) had not happened along with enough gumption to put them all in motion toward Quoyle Point, Newfoundland, where they move back into the family homestead, a frame house on a point so exposed on the rocky coast that cables anchor it against the wind. This house is so decrepit and open to the weather that only in the movies could it be rehabbed into a comfy home after, oh, about three scenes.
The movie's drift is clear: Sad sack and daughter move to eccentric, isolated town where local free spirits will introduce them to the joys of living. Quoyle gets a job on the local paper, the Gammy Bird, where arguments rage about sailing vessels vs. oil tankers (the tankers have their defender), and the journalists, like all small-town journalists I have ever known, know way more about everything than they can use in the kinds of stories they have to write.
Quoyle meets Wavey (Julianne Moore), who runs the local day care center, and soon--but you can fill in the blanks. What you may not anticipate are several macabre turns, including close calls with death, a severed head, spontaneous resurrection, 12-year-old grandfathers and ancient secrets just waiting to be unearthed.