Eben Cole (Tom Hildreth) and the rest of the lobstermen on Vinalhaven Island, off of Maine’s east coast, are barely eking out a living fishing the local waters. It especially angers Eben that interlopers from the mainland are setting their traps among the locals’, further depleting their livelihood. He decides to take matters in his own hands and sets out to scare off the outsiders, but the plan goes terribly awry, ending in the death of a young man and a five to seven year prison term for Eben in “Islander.”
Eben serves his time and, when released, heads back to the only home he has known. He is ostracized by the town folk for his misdeed, his wife, Cheryl (Amy Jo Johnson), has left him for another local fisherman, Jimmy (Mark Keily), and she refuse to let Eben see his daughter, Sara (Emma Ford). Eben, though, is determined to stay and get back into his lost world. When he is befriended by a wily old lobster trapper, Popper (Philip Baker Hall), who helps the younger man rebuild his self-respect, Eben gets a second chance at having a life.
Director and co-writer Ian McCrudden (who penned the script with his star, Thomas Hildreth), does a fine turn in telling a story that begins with anger and hatred as Eben thinks with his heart and not his head, with tragic results for himself and those close to him. Upon his return to Vinalhaven, Eben is a changed man but must prove it if he is to find redemption. The bulk of “Islander” is focused on Eben putting the pieces of his life back together, even if not the way it was before. He is a better person for it, as you would expect.
Hildreth, as Eben, gives a sincere performance as a man whose anger destroys his life and he has to find the spirit to get it back. Philip Baker Hall, always a reliable presence on screen, fits the bill as the wise old muse whose friendship to Eben makes a difference. The rest of the cast fill their spaces well enough, although some Maine accents work a lot better than others.
McCrudden uses his coastal Maine island locale to beautiful affect with cinematographer Dan Coplan doing a fine job with his high definition digital lensing. Islander” is a well crafted film that has a lot of heart and soul. I give it a B-.Laura:
Laura applauds the regional filmmaking and Philip Baker Hall's fine supporting turn, but wishes she'd gotten a better feel for the life of a fisherman. B-
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