Friday Film Review--"Sea Fever"
This week’s Friday Film Review is from Mark Harrington, who usually judges films on his famous Ski Trail Rating System.
So what kind of flick would make him put away his snow boots, and wax up his surfboard? Here’s Mark with the explanation.
This week’s at-home film is “Sea Fever”, a timely and promising film by Irish award winning director Neasa Hardiman about a fishing trawler that encounters a mysterious sea creature off the west coast of Ireland. The film is timely because it explores all too relevant themes of contagion and quarantine, as well as moral questions imbedded in individual versus mass survival. The film is promising because Ms. Hardiman is a skilled storyteller who provides the women in her films an opportunity to transform their on- screen characters outside the confines of the “male gaze.” However, if it is possible that a single film could represent both the potential upside and the deceptive trappings of mass marketing of suddenly relevant streaming only-movies, “Sea Fever” is perhaps that film. On the upside- the film’s captivating trailer boasts a new horror film with a strong international cast led by up and comer Hermione Corfield, who first turned heads in Hollywood as the affable record shop girl in the opening scene of “Mission Impossible 5 Rouge Nation” and more recently gave a Jennifer Lawrence-like performance in the thriller “Rustic Creek”. Connie Nielsen trade’s her tiara as “Wonder Woman”s queen and her robe worn as Maximus’ wife in “Gladiator” for a bucket hat as co-skipper of the trawler, opposite Dorgray Scott who also staked his MI pedigree as the villain in “Mission Impossible 2”. But the pitch is deceptive because this film is not a modern recalibration of “The Thing” or even Jamie Lee Curtis’ less inspiring “Virus”. Instead, Ms. Hardiman delivers a slow burn eco-thriller with nominal science chops mostly centered on Corfield’s limited dialogue. The film jumps from implausible scene to implausible scene without enough character interaction to draw in the audience’s investment, leaving the more tense parts of the film hollow.
Corfield plays Siobhán, an ocean biology grad student who, against her comfort zone, has to complete a practical research stint at sea- with other people. You see, Siobhán prefers the lab to other humans and she avoids small talk at all costs. Unfortunately, like her lead character, Ms. Hardiman’s direction of the film is too abrupt- shifting in and out of dialogue and scenes prematurely. As a result, the viewer feels like a surfer waiting for the next good wave but suffering through a disproportionate number of unfulfilling, small rollers.
So, on my alt-surf is not up rating system, “Sea Fever” earns my lowest FLAT wave rating. Watching this movie is like waiting for a big break on a dead calm surfing day on Hawaii’s Hapuna Beach- everything around you is gorgeous, the ocean is certainly capable of producing a thrilling ride and you convince yourself you just have to be patient for the right set, just being there is better than being just about anywhere else, and the shore break at the end is better than nothing. That’s how this film feels. However, at the end of the day you leave disappointed and metaphors tied to our current pandemic can’t rescue the misdirection of this hastily constructed cinematic life raft. But, if you are suffering cabin fever, there are worse ways to overcome boredom than watching a gorgeous red-headed, Irish grad student talk wicked smart.
“Sea Fever” is not rated but would be rated PG-13 for language, sexual thoughts but no sex acts, and eye-popping special effects.
This is Mark Harrington for KPCW’s Friday Film Review.