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How Karen Allen Has Lived Her Life on Her Own Terms

Through the years Allen has continued to be creative on her own terms, choosing film roles carefully. When she read the script for her upcoming film Year by the Sea, she found the story to be instantly relatable.

I was bowled over by the script.  I was so happy that someone was writing about this woman who is on this journey of discovering who she was and that the three main characters are all women over 60. I didn’t have a moment’s hesitation of feeling that this was a project I wanted to be a part of.

YBTS-OneSheet_040316RYear By The Sea, which screens later this month at the Newport Beach Festival, was adapted from the best-selling novel by Joan Anderson. Published in 1999, it’s Anderson’s own story about her decision to reclaim herself after leading a traditional life of wife and mother to two sons. With her children grown and her marriage faltering, she decides to separate from her husband and explore her own self-worth in a year by the Cape Cod seashore. 

Allen found many similarities between Joan Anderson’s journey and her own.

I think the thread of Joan’s heartbreak was when she was moving away and didn’t think her sons would understand. She had a real need to discover herself, and I really relate to that deeply. I need those times where I’m not reacting to anybody else’s needs or ideas of what I should be doing.  Almost every woman I know has come to a place where they have to ask, ‘What am I moving towards’?

The novel has millions of fans worldwide eagerly anticipating the release of the film, which was adapted and directed by Alexander Janko. Janko spent seven years developing the film, after happening upon the novel and being touched by its universal themes.

Alexander Janko so beautifully articulates Joan’s sense of her loss for what she’s leaving behind and not knowing what she’s going towards. He’s the kind of director an actor wants to work with. He is very respectful and interested in your thoughts, and he really explores them with you.

Allen has explored her own directing prowess on the stage and is now set to make her first foray into film directing. 

The film, A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud, is adapted from a story by Carson McCullers that I read 40 years ago. It’s this beautiful kind of little Zen story, and I’ve always wanted to do something with it . . . we begin shooting in May.

Excited for the future and looking back at all she’s accomplished, Allen reflects on her life, feeling that life gets better as she lives it.

I had all these possibilities thrust on me at such a young age, and when I had a child, I had to stand on my own two feet and figure out who I was. My son is 25 now . . .  I feel that he is living proof that I made all the right decisions, because he is such a lovely person.

As we talk, it becomes clear to me that Karen Allen, much like the character she plays in Year By the Sea, has achieved a certain life balance that developed from being her most authentic self.

I feel more creative, and more potential in myself to do things that I really care about, than ever before. That’s a good solid place to stand.

I can’t wait to see what my first screen hero does next. One thing I know for certain is that with Karen Allen . . . we’re gonna get more than we bargained for.

A whole lot more.


For more information about “Year By the Sea”, visit:


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  • Andrea April 14, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Wonderful and inspiring article Paige! I always enjoy your women of invention essays. Please continue to share them !