Colewell, a quiet character study

Karen Allen in Colewell

Colewell is a lovely, meditative film starring Karen Allen. Although I label it a good film, I think it will appeal to a very narrow audience. Karen Allen gives a terrific performance as the postmistress of a small town. The film is on Showtime.

In Colewell, Nora lives a life of gentle routine. She rises, puts on the coffee, gathers eggs from her small flock of chickens and has breakfast (eggs, of course). She opens the post office, which is attached to her home. She always has a couple of extra eggs for Charles (Kevin J. O’Connor), who drives the mail truck each morning to the small rural post office Nora runs.

During the day the entire town passes through the post office. Some sit and chat, some exchange just a few words. It’s the social hub of the community. When Nora closes the post office each evening, she goes back into her home where she eats alone and sleeps alone.

Nora receives a notice that her contract will not be renewed and the post office at Colewell will be closed. Her options are to move to another position in a slightly larger community a bus ride away or take her retirement.

Karen Allen in Colewell
Nora revisits a favorite spot where he husband carved their names

Nora is upset and so are the residents who will be affected. They try fighting for the post office to remain. Nora spends time evaluating her situation and whether she’s willing to start over at her age (she’s 65). If it weren’t for the people coming to the P.O. each day, who would she even see or talk to?

The film is quiet. There’s a lot of being alone and thinking. It’s a treatise on aging and loneliness. The narrow audience for the film I mentioned will be the people willing to sit quietly and ponder aging and loneliness with Nora.

Hannah Gross in Colewell
Who was Ella?

Tom Quinn wrote and directed the film. He did something late in the film that I found confusing. He introduced Ella (Hannah Gross). Was she a younger Nora? Was she a stranger passing through Nora’s life to show that young people can be lonely, too? I couldn’t figure out why Ella was there or what she meant. And then the film ended. Boom. That’s all folks. An abrupt and startling ending which further added to my confusion.

Even though I wish the last act had been more clarifying than confusing, the film gave Karen Allen a starring role and she made the most of it. (Yes, #EldersRock) It was a look at small town America and a way of life that urbanite and contemporary folks don’t know much about.

The poster for Colewell

Here’s a preview.

Does this sound interesting to you? If you watch it I’d like to know what you thought of Ella and the ending.

13 thoughts on “Colewell, a quiet character study”

  1. Beautiful scenery and Allen’s awesome performance made it worth a watch. However, it could have been “developed further” and given more clarity. But perhaps the lack of clarity was meant instead to engage the person watching to fill in the blanks and draw our own conclusions. It gives one the opportunity for introspective contemplation about our own unique characteristics, challenges and regrets in our lives as we find ourselves in our “golden” years.

  2. I thought “Coldwell”:was marvelous. I, for one, choose to think Ella was the young Nora. I base this on the pensive and long silent period she sat by the lake.

  3. Loved the cinematography-totally lost by the ending. I guess Ella was Eleanor before she met Andy but was she talking to herself at the dinner table when the two were having dinner or was Nora hallucinating or what? She sure needs to get out more. A car would help.

  4. I’m 75 and started a new life in a new city two years ago. I live alone with my dog. I empathized with Nora but found myself telling her to plant a garden, learn to knit, read a book, learn to knit, open a bookstore or a bake shop in the old post office. There are so many meaningful ways to spend our latter years. We don’t need to feel lonely just because we are alone. As a character study I thought it was stunning. I feel sure Ella and Nora are both Eleanor at different times in her life. Marlene Bumgarner, author of Back to the Land in Silicon Valley.

  5. I finished watching, alone, a few moments ago and came online in search of Ella’s identity. Every comment here echos my thoughts and questions; even living 2 years in a new community at 75, Marlene!
    “Colewell” will join “Tender Mercies” and “Places in the Heart”, films to revisit.

  6. Blondeseashell

    I was startled by the abrupt ending myself. Ellie, in my opinion, is definitely Nora when she was younger. That was her husband Andy who she asked for the ride up North. He said he worked in the quarry, so that’s how they met. He told her to call him if she ever needed a ride somewhere; he was smitten. After marriage she changed how she liked to be called from the youthful ‘Ellie’ to mature ‘Nora’; both derived from her full name Eleanor. Yes, she was speaking to her younger self at the table; about hitching and how time is fluid and fleeting. Loved the movie…. not so much the ending. Felt incomplete.

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