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
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.