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On a secluded island commune in the Pacific Northwest, Jack (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a single father raising his teenage daughter Rose (Camilla Belle). But when he becomes ill, Jack's lover (Catherine Keener) and her two sons join the household. Deeply embedded tensions slowly rise to the surface as Rose experiences, for the first time, the power of her sexuality. Writer/director Rebecca Miller's (Personal Velocity, Angela) third feature is the poetic tale of a young girl's sensual coming-of-age, and a father who has cut himself off from the world and refuses to live up to his ideals. With Beau Bridges, Jena Malone and Jason Lee.
 

 Scouting for Paradise:
      Finding the perfect location
      for The Ballad of Jack and Rose

I was shivering at the edge of a bluff on Prince Edward Island, Canada, freezing rain pricking my face like tiny needles, the sea below me white and rigid. I had never seen a frozen sea before. I didn’t know it could happen. The land I stood on was bleak, merciless. I imagined my characters, Jack and Rose, a misanthropic man and his beautiful daughter, surviving winters in this place, on the abandoned commune which had once housed Jack’s dreams. We would be shooting in summer. But there had to be a logic to the location. I had so wanted to shoot at the edge of the sea. But to build a commune here they would have had to be lunatics.

We trudged half a mile back to the cars, dragging our feet through the snow. The tires of our rental car churned up a cement-like mix of mud and snow, and had to be towed to the road by a massive truck owned by one of our local allies, a taciturn farmer who owned many of the blueberry fields in the area, a fervent Christian who, as it turned out, would one day revile me for refusing to see the local production of Anne of Green Gables. But I am getting ahead of myself. Once safely back in the car, as I tried to regain some feeling in my extremities, the production designer, Mark Ricker, said, “Well, it’s isolated, anyway.” He’s one for understatement. On we drove to the next location—our fourth that day.

Desperately in need of warmer clothing, we stopped at a local clothing store which was closed, except luckily the owner’s cousin, who ran the convenience store across the street, had a key, and we rifled through the merchandise, gratefully pulling on long underwear and wool socks and warmer gloves—it was March, and we hadn’t been expecting quite this level of frigidity—writing our credit card numbers down on a pad of paper for the owner to ring up whenever he wandered in.

Back in the car, as we negotiated the black ice on the road, my heart was sinking. Finding the perfect location for a film is as likely as finding your soul mate—there is nearly always one crucial thing wrong, and you just have to live with it. Or you find the perfect one, and it turns out to be unavailable. And the location for The Ballad of Jack and Rose is so crucial to the story, it is in a sense the body of the story, inside of which the characters play out the internal struggle, the struggle of life and death. So, needless to say, I felt a little pressure to find the right place. So. We drove up to the sea. Got out. The air felt warmer. The sea on this side of the island was, strangely, thawing already. The freezing rain had abated. And, my breath suspended, I walked out to the pond that I had written in the script, connected by a little tributary to the sea. The feeling I had when I saw this place is very difficult to describe. It felt like falling in love. There was a softness to the landscape, a femininity. Even on this grisly day the light of the sky as it met the sea was pearly, like the inside of a sea shell. A hundred yards up a dune, just as I had written it, there was an open field, standing at the edge of a far lower bluff than the one we had just come from. Mark placed his little models onto the frozen grass. Little doll houses as big as his feet. I could imagine them now, grass-covered earth houses in disrepair, all but for the main house, the house where Jack and Rose live. We had the houses to build yet, but we had found the land—the Eden that made sense of the story—a story about finding paradise, ruining it, and finding it again.