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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Signs of Life
Directed by John David Coles
Artisan Entertainment 1989 DVD/VHS Feature Film

Signs of Life explores an eventful day in the lives of a handful of citizens in a small Maine fishing town.

Sixty-six-year-old Owen Coughlin must face up to the closing of the family boat business which has been the center of his existence for fifty years. "Nobody wants what we make," he laments. His perceptive housekeeper keeps a close eye on him as he battles anger, despair, and suicidal feelings.

Things aren't much brighter for John, his foreman, who has four young daughters to support and a fifth child on the way. Desperate for money, he makes a mistake which could put his future status in the community in jeopardy.

Daryl and Eddie, two of Coughlin's employees, have made plans to drive to Florida where they hope to find employment as sea divers. But neither one of them has really measured the impact their departure will have on those who love them. Daryl's mentally disabled younger brother needs his care and Eddie's girlfriend Charlotte is determined to marry him.

Director John David Coles makes the most out of the ensemble performances by Arthur Kennedy, Beau Bridges, Vincent D'Ononfrio, Kevin J. O'Connor, Kate Reid, Kathy Bates, Michael Lewis, and Mary Louise Parker. Screenplay writer Mark Malone sensitively calibrates the changes in the lives of these ordinary people.

This drama provides an opportunity to reflect upon the truth of Rainer Maria Rilke's advice: "Be of good courage, all is before you, and time passed in the difficult is never lost. What is required of us is that we learn to love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us."


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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