All the Ships at Sea - Synopsis

Evelyn Bell (Strawn Bovee), a professor of theology in her late forties, visits her friend and priest Joseph Ryan (Dylan McCormick) in the vestry of his Catholic church after Mass.  Clearly distressed by recent events concerning her sister, Evelyn tells Joseph the whole story.

Two weeks earlier, Evelyn is summoned to the New York apartment of her parents, both academics of some reputation, with no sympathy for their daughter’s religious inclinations.  Ann (Lois Raebeck), Evelyn’s mother, explains how Evelyn’s younger sister Virginia (Edith Meeks) had joined a religious cult, and had later been found, severely depressed, on a park bench in Ohio by social workers.  Expressing herself with her usual casual cruelty, Ann asks Evelyn to take Virginia to the family’s cottage to recuperate.  Virginia, sitting motionless in the next room, barely responds when Evelyn greets her.  Evelyn fares little better with her work-obsessed father, John (Walt Witcover), who is too busy to say more than hello to her.

Though uncertain of her ability to handle the situation, Evelyn takes charge of Virginia and drives her to the country.  Surprisingly, Virginia starts to come out of her shell almost immediately, beginning to talk and eat again.  Virginia seems to enjoy Evelyn’s company, and the sisters talk about their difficult childhood and their alliance against their oppressive parents.  Still, Evelyn remains tentative with her younger sister.  She is surprised to learn that Virginia was exiled from her cult and has hope of rejoining it someday.

As Virginia improves, the sisters begin to discuss their beliefs, with Virginia actively drawing Evelyn out.  When Virginia finally reveals her own ideology, it turns out to be extreme: aliens, magnets, etc.  Yet she is intelligent and insightful, and her probing aggravates Evelyn’s ongoing, private crisis about her own loss of faith.  Already a bit aloof, Evelyn becomes increasingly irritated with Virginia’s sometimes didactic manner.

Eventually Evelyn unceremoniously calls the recuperation period to a halt, announcing that she is returning to her home the next day.  Uncomfortable with her own behavior toward Virginia, she is beginning to realize that she has cast her sister out of her emotional life along with the rest of her family.  Saddened at being unable to connect with her beloved older sister, but stronger than before, Virginia gets up at dawn the next morning, leaves the house empty-handed, panhandles some change for a cup of coffee, and hitches a ride into the unknown.