The Sea – Review by Frances Winston
Directed by: Stephen Brown
Starring: Ciarán Hinds, Rufus Sewell, Natascha McElhone, Sinéad Cusack, Bonnie Wright, Charlotte Rampling, Ruth Bradley, Karl Johnson as Blunden, Missy Keating
In cinemas April 18th
Adapted from John Banville’s Booker Prize winning novel of the same name by the author himself this film has been hugely anticipated by fans of the deeply moving tome (which I am fortunate enough to have a personalised signed copy of). The story in the book, told through the protagonist’s eyes, covers several decades and deals with many complex issues so transposing this to film was always going to be a tough job.
The underlying story is a simple one. A man, Max (Hinds), returns to a seaside village where he used to spend his childhood in order to recover from his wife’s (Cusack) death. While there he recalls one particular summer that that had a profound effect on his life when he met a well to do family staying in the large house he has booked himself into. As he struggles with his loss he is forced to confront many demons that have been festering within since he was a boy and in doing so perhaps find some peace.
This is the kind of film where nothing appears to happen but there are a multitude of complexities bubbling under the surface. Hinds gives a fantastic performance as the tortured Max and the supporting cast are all excellent at conveying the inner turmoil in their world. Unfortunately that is not enough to keep an audience fully engaged and the gentle, often lethargic pace, and anticlimactic ending do a real disservice to the source material. Visually it is beautiful but after the umpteenth panoramic shot of lapping waves you do find yourself wishing something would actually happen. While this is a character driven piece most of what happens to them is unspoken – like the obvious lingering problems in Max’s marriage prior to his wife’s diagnosis – and as such the viewer often has to decipher the inner workings of people’s relationships which becomes tedious after a while. The young Max’s tweenie romance with the wealthy Chloe (played by Missy Keating daughter of Ronan and Yvonne no less) loses a lot of its visceral impact here and scenes of both drama and tragedy are viewed through rose coloured glasses.
After viewing this the first word that sprang to mind was inoffensive and it seems appropriate. The strong performances always seem at odds with the visuals which treat everything as if it is dreamlike no matter how ugly it is. This loses a lot of the impact of the book but is a pleasant enough watch if you are in the mood for something slow and gentle.