A sun-spangled Florida fishing village on the verge of corporate upsizing. A socio-collage of local color: cops, doctors, mechanics, party girls, crooks. A domestic love triangle in which the three people involved are so sensitive they’re friends, and they stay friends. If you didn’t know better, you might mistake Coastlines for one of John Sayles’ portraits of the America that big American movies don’t show you. The writer-director, however, is Victor Nunez, the regional veteran of pre-Miramax independent film who had a career highlight in 1997 with Ulee’s Gold, starring Peter Fonda’s glorious haunted stare.
Nunez can craft a movie with a woodcarver’s unshowy perfection. Displaying an empathy so fine-grained it flirts with Zen detachment, he leads us through the interlaced stories of Sonny (Timothy Olyphant), a sexy ne’er-do-well who returns home after three years in prison; his lifelong chum and opposite number, Dave (Josh Brolin, in a mustache that wipes out half of his already quiet personality), a deputy sheriff and devoted family man; and Dave’s wife, Ann (Sarah Wynter), who is caught between the husband she loves for his dull stability and the impractical lure of Sonny’s danger. Coastlines is so meticulous, so full of polished ”symmetries,” that it’s a little flat. It’s a heartfelt movie that could have used a zigzaggier undercurrent, though Olyphant, in the sort of role that Paul Newman used to swagger through, has a star’s easy command.