The Shipping News


The Shipping News

Critics Consensus

Though solidly made and acted, The Shipping News is rather heavy-handed and dull, especially given the nature of its protagonist.



Total Count: 131


Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,714
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Movie Info

A man makes a journey to self-discovery when he returns to his ancestral home on the coast of Newfoundland. After the death of his estranged wife, Quoyle's fortunes begin to change when his long lost Aunt Agnis convinces him to head north with his daughters. He relocates to the small coastal village of Killick-Claw. Now, in a place where life is as rough as the weather and secrets are as vast as the ocean, Quoyle lands a job as a reporter for the local newspaper. He reports on the shipping news as he simultaneously attempts to adjust to his new life and surroundings. In the course of his new career, he confronts private demons, discovers dark family mysteries and finds love with a lonely single mother who has a secret of her own.


Julianne Moore
as Wavey Prowse
Judi Dench
as Agnis Hamm
Cate Blanchett
as Petal Bear
Pete Postlethwaite
as Tert X. Card
Rhys Ifans
as Beufield Nutbeem
Gordon Pinsent
as Billy Pretty
Scott Glenn
as Jack Buggit
Jason Behr
as Dennis Buggit
Jeanetta Arnette
as Silver Melville
Larry Pine
as Bayonet Melville
Robert Joy
as EMS Officer
John Dunsworth
as Guy Quoyle
Anthony Cipriano
as Young Quoyle (age 7)
Kyle Smith
as Young Quoyle (age 12)
Ken James
as Newspaper Boss
Roman Podhora
as Muscular Man
Terry Daly
as Hunky Guy
Gary Levert
as Newspaper Employee
Stephen Morgan
as Bartender Dave
Katherine Moennig
as Grace Moosup
Daniel Kash
as Detective Danzig
Will MCallister
as Herry Prowse
Marc Lawrence
as Cousin Nolan
Kathryn Fraser
as Daycare Mom
Nancy Beatty
as Mavis Bangs
R.D. Reid
as Alvin Yark
Deborah Grover
as Edna Buggit
Nicole Underhay
as Betty Buggit
Jon Whalen
as Big Guy
Andrew Fowler
as Guy Quoyle (age 15)
John MacEachern
as Drunken Guy
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News & Interviews for The Shipping News

Critic Reviews for The Shipping News

All Critics (131) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (72) | Rotten (59)

  • Spacey is terrific at playing monsters... As Quoyle stumbles through the Newfoundland scenery with a look of dumb, wounded decency that's as annoying as it is unpersuasive, his eyes let us know that he's smarter than the guy he's playing.

    May 17, 2018 | Full Review…
  • I am baffled by all the negativity surrounding it, and I am prepared to designate it as the most underrated film of 2001.

    Mar 13, 2002 | Full Review…

    Andrew Sarris

    Top Critic
  • Just as staple foods can sometimes be enjoyable, so this easy-to-digest, gently amusing drama is a pleasant way to fritter away a couple of hours.

    Feb 17, 2002 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Nev Pierce
    Top Critic
  • The movie has a modest but true feeling for the ways in which people are formed by the ravages of their natural surroundings.

    Jan 22, 2002
  • Spacey brilliantly shows Quoyle's transformation from a passive clod to a curious journalist.

    Jan 17, 2002
  • I like good newspaper movies. Most of them get it completely wrong. In this case, it's exactly right.

    Jan 10, 2002

Audience Reviews for The Shipping News

  • Apr 22, 2019
    When you look at the talent who were drawn to this film, you would assume a great concept and film. Sadly this film is a missed opportunity. Kevin Spacey in my opinion is wasted and not the correct actor for the film, he never looks or feels comfortable in the lead. I wanted to enjoy this film as Hallstrom had made The Cider House Rules, which is an incredible film. The film is beautiful to look at and the township is amazing, but as an overall film this suffers from odd choices. 16/04/2019
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • Mar 30, 2014
    Clearly this film isn't about ordering stuff online, because I don't know about you, but I wouldn't trust a package tracker to give me accurate shipping news that much more than I'd trust the tabloids to give me any kind of accurate news. I'd stare that you can cue the snare drum, but that joke was admittedly so lame that I really wouldn't trust people with sticks that they could use to either play a snare drum or beat me. Seriously though, folks, this film is actually about a reporter traveling to another country and finding love, as well as himself, as he finds new inspiration in a new land, and no, I can't believe they've allowed that specific type of story to become clichéd either. Well, I reckon a story is officially clichéd once Lasse Hallström interprets it, because as much as I like a fair deal of Hallström's films, he has a tradition of taking on stories that are perhaps too traditional for their own good, and make no mistake, this is definitely a traditional Lasse Hallström film. Speaking of surprising clichés, Hallström's project picking seems to be heavily based on which story has the silliest character names, although that might simply be because he's Swedish. Nevertheless, if you thought that Grape made for a weird surname in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape", here you've got Kevin Spacey as Quoyle, Judi Dench as Agnis Hamm, Cate Blanchett as Petal, Pete Postlethwaite as Tert Card, and, of course, Julianne Moore as Wavey Prowse, with a small appearance by Rhys Ifans as Beaufield Nutbeem. Well, to be fair, a lot of this film's characters are Irish something fierce, but that doesn't make the film any less decent, as opposed to certain other aspects. Lasse Hallström always had a taste in drama's with plenty of lighthearted elements, but with this film, he really lets the tightness of his grip on tonal dynamicity slip, as plenty of lighter, almost comedic aspects go punctuated a touch too firmly by dramatic, maybe even tense highlights, resulting in near-glaring tonal inconsistencies that are much more recurring than they should be, and shake tonal impact, with the help of something of a consistency heavy-handedness. Colorfully drawn enough for you to bond reasonably comfortably with the characters and this narrative, this story is still questionably drawn, even with its characterization, which goes plagued with overblown character traits and plot happenings that are sometimes too far-fetched to buy into, particularly when they touch the film's more dramatic and thematic elements, thinning subtlety to a considerable degree. The film has been criticized as rather heavy-handed in its script, and yes, I do indeed agree, and Hallström's role in the storytelling doesn't exactly make things any more realized, as it sometimes takes on the director's trademark atmospheric sentimentality to make the scripted histrionics all the more glaring. Of course, when Hallström signature sentimentality doesn't kick in as a plague on intrigue, he's plaguing intrigue with his signature atmospheric cold spells, established through a certain quiet thoughtfulness that is usually easier to get past in Hallström's other, more entertaining dry efforts, but actually kind of dulling here. For this, we have to place yet more blame on screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs, whose efforts are plenty of clever, but not exactly consistent with the material that Hallström usually draws on with his dry directorial thoughtfulness, going bloated with aimless filler and even excess material that bloats the narrative to an unfocused point whose aimlessness only grows more and more distancing the more storytelling meanders. The film starts out pretty promising as yet another thoroughly endearing effort by Hallström, but once it gets going, it goes too slow for comfort, gradually losing momentum under the weight of aimlessness, unevenness and heavy-handedness, until the final product finds itself wearing pretty deeply into underwhelmingness. The film falls quite a distance shy of what it could have been, yet what it ultimately is is an endearing dramedy, even stylistically speaking. Composed by the popular Christopher Young, this film's score, when actually played upon, is usually a touch too minimalist to be all that exciting, and when it does pick up, it falls into conventions, yet there's still something very tasteful about Young's atmospheric, somewhat celtic styles, which capture the drly colorful tone of the film about as much as often flat, but just as often nifty cinematography. Even style kind of loses momentum after a while, possibly because it's never truly outstanding enough for you to not gradually get used to it, but there's no denying that there is aesthetic appeal to draw you in, even if it's not as important of a compliment to the themes of this near-grimy dramedy as, say, the script. Robert Nelson Jacobs' script is instrumental in bringing about the film's downfall into underwhelmingness, because where Lasse Hallström's direction, at least at this point, was usually met with enough material for his thoughtfulness and sentimentality to be generally pretty effective, tonal and narrative structuring issues to Jacobs' efforts go a long way in defusing the final product's momentum, and yet, there's still plenty of wit to endear you to the script, which is at its most endearing when it's at its most realized with characterization. Needless to say, when these highlights in material kick in, that's where highlights in Hallström's direction comes in, with pacing and sentimental thoughtfulness that, upon finding material to draw upon, compels as a punctuation to a reasonable degree of entertainment value which Hallström establishes through subtle plays on style and wit. I'm not saying that this film's story is all that meaty, but there's still something missing out of the interpretation of this traditional tale regarding finding new depths in yourself in a new setting, and yet, when inspiration meets ambition, the film endears as a light character study, anchored by worthy character portrayals. Once again, Hallström assembles a solid cast of respectable talents, every one of whom has only so much to work with, but delivers nonetheless, at least on charisma, particularly within Judi Dench, Julianne Moore, the quickly dismissed Cate Blanchett, and, of course, leading man Kevin Spacey, whose trademark subdued charm, while too formulaic as part of a Kevin Spacey performance, is open enough for Spacey to serve as an audience avatar, but tight enough to make Spacey an endearing lead by his own right, especially when occasions of actually pretty powerful emoting kick in. I don't know if this film can afford to have all that subdued of a lead, as most everything else is too subdued for its own good, yet just as Spacey practically compels with his quiet charm, Hallström endears with his own somber charm, which is realized enough to entertain adequately, with dramatic highlights, however limited they may be. Once the docks are reached, the final product sinks into underwhelmingness under the weight of tonal unevenness, heavy-handedness, a certain atmospheric coldness, and much meandering plotting, but through a tasteful score and visual style, clever writing, thoughtful direction and charismatic performances, "The Shipping News" charms as a fair and sometimes effective, if rather forgettable affair. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Oct 25, 2011
    A congenital looser named Quoyle, after having dealt with multiple blows in life, moves with his daughter to his ancestral homeland, Newfoundland, at the urging of his long-lost Aunt, Agnis (Judi Dench). There he befriends a serene single mother, Wavey Prowse(Julianne Moore) and gradually finds himself accepted into that remote community. Once the story makes the transition to the snowy coasts of Newfoundland, I found myself elevated to a whole another level of movie experience. Maybe it has to do something with the going-back-to-roots premise of the movie. Photographic grandeur of the breathtaking landscapes plays its part in that feeling too. Movie features powerful performances from a clutch of well recognized talents. The simple story can basically be described as one about our search for a place in the world and about coming to grips with the past. Lass Hallstrom, who gave us "What's eating Gilbert Grape", leaves you with a similar experience when you're through with this movie.
    Sajin P Super Reviewer
  • Aug 29, 2011
    Not a Corvette this film but rather a stationwagon with room for many (and their assorted baggage) and not a film for everyone, this story of a family returning to it's small town roots I found hypnotic. It's my favorite Spacey film, instantly, Dench was solid as an oak, and Julianna Moore did not offend me for a change.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer

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