A review of “The Ballad of Jack & Rose” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language and sexual situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

 

 

The one-two punch of director Rebecca Miller (daughter of recently deceased playwright Arthur) and actor Daniel Day-Lewis (her hubby) is a powerful one.  Hard to go wrong with that potent combination of god-given talent. 

Day-Lewis is superb as contemporary drop-out Jack, a dyed-in-the-wool free spirit who’s raising an introspective 16-year old daughter (Camilla Belle as Rose) in the untamed wilderness of a remote island off the Eastern coast of the U.S.

Jack and Rose are unusually close, bonded by a unique isolation and controversial lifestyle. Jack gives a resounding No to progress the only way he knows how; by living off the pulse of the land and firing shots at the developers who are building ticky-tacky developments on his beloved island.

The fly in the ointment of this particular paradise is that Jack is slowly dying of a degenerative heart disease.  Determined to secure Rose’s future Jack persuades his mainland squeeze Kathleen (Catherine Keener) to move to the island with her own boys, ostensibly creating a positive female influence for his capricious teen.

The experiment is a disaster from the get-go, rife with tragic and comic consequences.  Rose seethes with resentment over what she perceives as her father’s unfathomable betrayal and acts out in startling ways.  Think lost virginity, fun with firearms, etc.

Miller has a way with words -- her scripting is a well-crafted marvel of pathos and humor.  Day-Lewis is sensitive and sinewy (yum) and exceedingly patient with his words. Keener delivers in typically champion fashion and Belle plays all the right notes as a frightened young woman on the verge of losing the only stability she knows.

Prince Edward Island is a handsome, wind-swept stand-in for this modern American tragedy. A misguided focus-group inspired epilogue separates Jack from narrative perfection. Deep, rich and altogether satisfying.