(director: Harold Gushkin; screenwriter: Sandra Jennings; cinematographer: Richard Rutowski; editor: Andrew Ford; music: Andrea Morricone; cast: Famke Janssen(Mary Reed), James Gandolfini(Bailey Euler), John Magaro (Martin), Maria Dizzia (Susan Euler), Joe Pope (Wiley), Edoardo Costa (Jacques), Gabrielle Lazure (Brigitte Lebeau), Emma Canot (Sophie); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Joe Pope; Anchor Bay Entertainment; 2011)

Nearly drowns in its own tears.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A bleak family drama that only manages to tell us “we all must pay for our sins.” The only film directed by veteran acting coach Harold Guskin nearly drowns in its own tears. It’s written in a cliché-ridden manner by Sandra Jennings. She makes us despair over the three depressing close-knit stereotypical characters featured, who let us into their screwed up lives so we can pity them.

Curiously the movie was shot in the shore town of Keansburg, N.J., a few years before the devastating Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 and wiped out that areas boardwalks, destroyed its economy and played havoc with the psyches of the surviving residents.

It opens with the American tourist in Paris, Susan (Maria Dizzia), visiting a small but historical amusement park. She meets there the friendly operator, Jacques (Edoardo Costa), whom she secretly marries. Six months later Jacques shows up at the run-down small amusement park of Susan’s downcast brother Bailey (James Gandolfini), at the Jersey Shore. Jacques startles the lifeless Bailey with the news that his sister Susan married him but is now dead, that he has Susan’s ashes in an urn and Susan left him in her will half the family house she owns with her brother that they inherited from their abusive father. In the waning days of winter, the meddling Jacques manages to go partners with the resentful Bailey in the amusement park.

Meanwhile Bailey’s childhood pal, the recreational drug user Wiley (Joe Pope), his amusement park landlord, raises his rent to an astronomical fee to support his habit. Wiley once double-crossed his pal and married Mary (Famke Janssen), the love of Bailey’s life. Now Mary has a mentally challenged child (John Magaro) and is regularly beaten by her unhinged crack user hubby.Gandolfini gives a stagy performance making us feel his inner pain, while the emotionally beat down Famke is only required to show us her black eye to tell us all about her character’s misfortunes and Pope gives us an overwrought performance to show that he is more rotten than his two loser friends.

The wild card in this production is Costa, whose presence as a mysterious outsider acts as a catalyst to get the three friends to reveal their dark secrets from the past. But the Frenchman seemed more like a plot device than a real character, as we never learn much about him or really know what he’s up to. In any case, this beach tragedy family drama never kicked any sand in my face when straining to be either poignant or romantic.