The Shipping News (film)

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The Shipping News
The Shipping News film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLasse Hallström
Screenplay byRobert Nelson Jacobs
Based onThe Shipping News
by Annie Proulx
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byAndrew Mondshein
Music byChristopher Young
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • December 18, 2001 (2001-12-18)
Running time
111 minutes
CountriesUnited States
Budget$38 million
Box office$25 million[1]

The Shipping News is a 2001 Canadian-Swedish-American drama film directed by Lasse Hallström, based on Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same title.

It stars Kevin Spacey as Quoyle, Judi Dench as Agnis Hamm, and Julianne Moore as Wavey Prowse. Cate Blanchett, Pete Postlethwaite, Scott Glenn, Rhys Ifans, Jason Behr, and Gordon Pinsent appear in supporting roles.


When Quoyle was a young boy, his father, Guy, tossed him into a lake, expecting him to swim naturally. Images of flailing in water and nearly drowning often resurface in Quoyle's memory when he is under stress.

Quoyle, now an ink setter at a small newspaper in Poughkeepsie, New York, lives a lonely life. He becomes infatuated with and marries a vivacious local woman named Petal. Petal is an unfaithful wife and a negligent mother to their six-year-old daughter, Bunny. Petal runs off with a lover, taking Bunny with her. Soon after, Petal and her boyfriend are killed in a car accident. The police return Bunny to Quoyle, informing him that Petal sold her to a black market adoption operation for $6,000.

Shortly before those events, Quoyle's elderly parents commit suicide together. Quoyle's aunt, Agnis Hamm, arrives to pay her respects to her late brother, though her real motive is to steal Guy's ashes (which she later dumps down an outhouse hole and urinates on). Agnis is moving to the ancestral family home in Newfoundland, which has been abandoned for 44 years. Agnis agrees to stay a few more days to help Quoyle through his recent turmoil, then persuades him to move to Newfoundland with her.

While struggling to build a new life, restore the derelict house, and care for Bunny, Quoyle meets Wavey Prowse, a widow whose young son, Harry, has a learning disability. Wavey and Quoyle gradually develop a deepening relationship. Wavey eventually admits she pretends to be widowed, ashamed that her philandering husband left when she was pregnant. Quoyle learns that the ancient Quoyles were pirates that ran ships aground and savagely pillaged them. When those Quoyles were driven out, they moved their house over a frozen lake to its present location, now known as Quoyle's Point. Quoyle's cousin Nolan, an old hermit, reveals that young Agnis was raped and impregnated by her teenaged brother (Quoyle's father), resulting in an abortion.

Quoyle applies for an ink setter job at the Gammy Bird. Owner and publisher, Jack Buggit, instead hires him as a reporter covering auto wrecks and the town's shipping news. With no journalism experience, Quoyle struggles to produce decent articles, incurring managing editor Tert Card's constant scorn. Reporter Billy Pretty tutors and encourages Quoyle. When Quoyle's article about a millionaire's vintage yacht docked in town is popular with readers, Jack assigns him a weekly column profiling an interesting boat in port. Meanwhile, Agnis resumes her former occupation as a boat upholsterer to help support the family. She later confides to Quoyle that the woman she loved died six years earlier from leukemia.

Rather than running his newspaper full time, Jack Buggit commercially fishes to prevent his adult son, Dennis, who nearly died at sea, from obtaining his own commercial license, which are limited. Jack drowns while securing his boat in an oncoming storm. During the funeral wake at the Buggit house, shock and chaos erupts when Jack miraculously revives from a coma-like state caused by hypothermia. Jack gives Dennis his fishing license, believing the generational curse of Buggits dying at sea has been broken. After Jack's revival, Bunny is upset and angry at Quoyle, believing Petal could also have been "awakened,” but she finally accepts her mother's death.

Agnis, Quoyle, and Bunny have been living in town during the winter months while their house is renovated. On the night of the big storm, Bunny awakes and can "see" the house at Quoyle's point being blown away. When the family drives to their property, they discover the house is gone, symbolically freeing them from the dark Quoyle legacy.



The film, while broadly following the plot of the book, makes several changes; notably, Quoyle is obese and has two daughters in the novel, but in the film he has only one daughter and is of average build. He is only a timid ink setter in the film and he does not begin writing as a reporter until after he arrives in Newfoundland. In the novel, he is already a journalist. Another difference is that several characters, such as the younger Buggit family, are deleted or merged.

The film was originally to be directed by Fred Schepisi, with John Travolta in the lead male role.[2]


Critical response[edit]

The Shipping News received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 55% rating, based on 130 reviews, with an average score of 5.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Though solidly made and acted, The Shipping News is rather heavy-handed and dull, especially given the nature of its protagonist."[3] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 47 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[4]





  1. ^ The Shipping News at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Caroline Baum, "Fred bare", The Age, 22 April 2006, Good Weekend magazine, p. 46
  3. ^ "The Shipping News (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  4. ^ "The Shipping News". Metacritic. Retrieved July 14, 2015.

External links[edit]