‘My Sailor, My Love’ Director Klaus Härö Talks ‘Sensitive’ ‘GoT’ Star James Cosmo

Finnish director Klaus Härö makes his English-language debut with Toronto Film Festival premiere “My Sailor, My Love.” A gentle drama about a retired sea captain falling in love one last time will be spotlighted at the Helsinki-based event Finnish Film Affair next. Global Screen is handling the sales.

Härö, an experienced filmmaker behind Golden Globe-nominated “The Fencer,” didn’t feel “desperate” to make a movie in English, he says. 

“I hope it doesn’t feel forced. With English, there is always this thought that maybe this way, it will reach more people. But it just felt natural to set it in Ireland.”  

“I love the loneliness of this landscape, its proximity to the sea. Also, ‘The Fencer’ was shot in Estonia and my next film will be in Finnish, German, Hebrew and Yiddish.” 

Produced by Kai Nordberg and Kaarle Aho for Making Movies, as well as David Collins for Ireland’s Samson Films and Belgium’s Umedia, the film stars “Games of Thrones” alumnus James Cosmo, Catherine Walker and Brid Brennan.

“The real joy was to see these actors finding trust in each other,” he adds, praising his leads. 

“When we think of James, we think of ‘Braveheart,’ ‘GoT,’ ‘Ben-Hur.’ He is always the Viking, the Roman soldier, the mafioso. He has been typecast this way. But I have seen ‘The Pyramid Texts’ [which scored Cosmo a win at Edinburgh] or ‘Trainspotting,’ where he plays [Renton’s] father. I have caught glimpses of his enormous sensibility.”

He wanted someone threatening for the role of ailing yet commanding Howard – “hard as a rock” – but with a softer side too, revealed by a romance that catches his middle-aged daughter off guard.

“I can’t say it’s a role of a lifetime – no Finn would ever say that. I just hope the audience will see how he transforms in the film. On set, we would sometimes look at each other with my DoP, whispering: ‘Are you seeing what I am seeing?’ People would sit there in silence, afraid to move.” 

In his native Finland, Härö has become known for his tender stories, with 2009 “Letters to Father Jacob” voted the most touching film of the 21st century. 

“I thought no one was going to see it. Well, maybe my mother. [Finnish filmmaker] Jörn Donner once said that in American films, a lot happens on the surface, but not so much on the inside. In Finnish films, not much happens on the surface and not much on the inside either,” he jokes.

Reuniting with his “Mother of Mine” scribes Jimmy Karlsson and Kirsi Wikman, this time he wanted to show a complicated family dynamic, fueled by years of animosity and absence.

“Howard is a person who was always away. This has shaped the relationship with his children. Now, they can finally be together, they have all this time, but it wakes up all sorts of resentments they weren’t even aware of,” he notes.

“There is a good side of caring, but then there is the compulsion. His daughter has been forced into that position early on, taking care of her mother: it became her profession and her obsession. It’s her way of relating to people now. But when you start demanding love, also through your actions, it’s just not going to happen.” 

While Härö sees “My Sailor, My Love” as a more somber story than his usual fare – despite tackling war and loneliness of displaced children in his previous work – it was one he was still comfortable telling.

“We are left with a feeling that not everything gets an answer. Maybe it’s closer to real life this way. Still, it’s not about overburdening viewers. I would rather sneak up on you slowly, making sure you can take something with you,” he says. 

“First love and very late love both come as a surprise. When something you thought was a thing of the past suddenly makes a return, there is some innocence about it, I think. It was the first spark that led to us making this film.”

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