It stars Kevin Spacey as Quoyle, Judi Dench as Agnis Hamm, and Julianne Moore as Wavey Prowse. It also stars Cate Blanchett, Pete Postlethwaite, Scott Glenn, Rhys Ifans, Jason Behr, and Gordon Pinsent.
The film opens with Quoyle's father tossing him into water, expecting him to naturally swim. The image of Quoyle struggling to swim is reprised several times in later crises.
Flash forward to an adult Quoyle (Kevin Spacey), who lives a lonely life and works as an inksetter in a small newspaper in Poughkeepsie, New York. Deciding to make a life for himself, he meets and marries a outgoing local woman named Petal (Cate Blanchett). Six years later, the emotionally distant and promiscuous Petal runs off with a lover, only to die soon after in a car accident, leaving Quoyle with their six-year-old daughter Bunny (whom Petal had sold off for $6,000 to an illegal adoption agency). Quoyle's Aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) happens to be visiting when the news arrives that Quoyle's estranged father and mother committed suicide together in a pact. Agnis is moving to the ancestral family home in Newfoundland, which has been abandoned for 44 years. Realizing that Quoyle is at a total loss through grief, she first offers to stay a few more days and help him through the crisis, and then persuades him to move with her to the Quoyle family house in Newfoundland.
While struggling to rebuild his life, fix up the derelict house, and care for his daughter, Quoyle meets local resident Wavey Prowse (Julianne Moore), a widow with a pre-teen boy. Wavey's son and Quoyle's daughter become friends while the two adults become friends and then more. Wavey has dark secrets in her past, but so does the Quoyle family. Quoyle takes a job at the local newspaper Gammy Bird as a car-crash writer and accident/crime scene photographer to support himself and his daughter.
The story climaxes with a storm that destroys the Quoyle home, and the Gammy Bird's editor Jack Buggit, caught in the rope of a lobster pot while fishing, is believed drowned. His body is recovered, appears to be dead, but is actually in a deep state of shock resulting from hypothermia. During his wake, at his home in front of mourners, he regains consciousness.Kevin Spacey as Quoyle
Julianne Moore as Wavey Prowse
Judi Dench as Agnis Hamm
Cate Blanchett as Petal
Pete Postlethwaite as Tert Card
Scott Glenn as Jack Buggit
Rhys Ifans as Beaufield Nutbeem
Gordon Pinsent as Billy Pretty
Jason Behr as Dennis Buggit
Larry Pine as Bayonet Melville
Jeanetta Arnette as Silver Melville
Katherine Moennig as Grace Moosup
Marc Lawrence as Cousin Nolan
The film, while broadly following the plot of the book, makes several changes; notably, Quoyle was obese and had two daughters in the novel, but only one in the film. He's only a timid ink setter in the film and he does not begin writing as a brave reporter until after arriving in Newfoundland. Another difference is that several characters, such as the younger Buggit family, were deleted or merged.
The film was originally to be directed by Fred Schepisi, with John Travolta in lead male role.
Quoyle Point is a fictional point of land on the Newfoundland coast bearing the family name of the protagonist in both the book and the movie. The actual town used for "Killick-Claw" in the movie was New Bonaventure in the Trinity Bight area of Newfoundland. This area is home to approximately 2,000 Newfoundlanders, most of whom are descendants of 18th-century settlers from England's West Country, the Channel Islands, and Southeast Ireland.
In the movie, Quoyle Point is a remote, spectacular site with a cove and dramatic cliffs. There is a desolate, weathered green house on the point, the old family home of the Quoyles. At some time in the past, the house had been dragged across the sea-ice from a neighboring island and cabled to the ground at the four corners to protect it from being blown away.
The film crew pre-built the green house on a stage in Halifax, Nova Scotia, disassembled it, transported it via ferry to Newfoundland, and then reassembled it piece-by-piece on "Quoyle Point", using snowmobiles so as not to disturb the natural location. All traces of it were removed at the end of filming.
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." At Metacritic, the film has a score of 47 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".Florida Film Critics Association:
National Board of Review:
- Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett)
Art Directors Guild (ADG):
- Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett)
- Excellence in Production Design Award Feature Film – Contemporary Film
Berlin International Film Festival:
- Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kevin Spacey)
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Judi Dench)
Broadcast Film Critics Association:
- Golden Berlin Bear (Lasse Hallström)
Golden Globe Awards:
- Best Composer (Christopher Young)
- Best Film
Screen Actors Guilds (SAG):
- Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama (Kevin Spacey)
- Best Original Score (Christopher Young)
USC Scripter Award:
- Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Judi Dench)
Young Artist Awards:
- USC Scripter Award (Robert Nelson Jacobs and E. Annie Proulx)
- Best Ensemble in a Feature Film