At the end of the film Venus, the character played by 74-year-old Peter O’Toole is taken by a young friend to a British seaside resort in winter, where he dies. If any viewer didn’t know that this was a sad turn of events, he was cued by the fact that it occurred in a happy place (the beach!) at an unhappy time (the lonely off-season).

There’s an undeniable melancholia (albeit a lazy and ham-handed one) to the down months of hyper-seasonal places like summer camps, amusement parks, and beach resorts in colder climates. Feelings of emptiness there are heightened by their immense sizes — built to accommodate hundreds or thousands, in winter they stand barren.

Wildwood, New Jersey, is such a place. A resort town that lies on that stretch of the Jersey Shore between the casinos of gritty Atlantic… More…