Director: Stephen Brown
One of the best things about film festivals is getting to watch movies before their general release. It’s also an opportunity to see something you wouldn’t normally seek out. Both of these apply to my viewing of The Sea, a movie adaptation of the award winning book by John Banville.
It tells the story of Max Morden (Ciaran Hinds) who has recently lost his wife. He’s clearly struggling with grief so he takes a vacation in a village that he visited as a young boy. Here he reminisces about one particular summer when some bad shit went down. Max hasn’t travelled to the sea to relive some good memories, as he says at one point that he’s trying to escape from his pain by confronting an older pain.
This debut feature by Stephen Brown moves at a deliberate pace. Revelations are slow to come and when they do it’s portrayed in a quiet, unassuming way. We get to see Max coping with his current problems and also dealing with what happened when he was a child. Max is drinking too much, is moody, and is struggling with his work as a writer but the key to his redemption is facing the past.
The film is beautifully shot with a stark contrast between the bleak, raging waves of the sea in the present, and the sun-kissed sandy beach of the past. The cast is excellent with Charlotte Rampling playing the dignified B&B owner and Hinds is understated as the grief stricken Max. There are also fine performances from Rufus Sewell and Natasha McElhone as bohemian parents who take Max under their wing when he’s a child.
The performances keep the movie ticking along however the plot is fairly formulaic, a problem that comes from the source material. I haven’t read the book The Sea is based on so I can’t say for certain how faithful the film is but I have seen similar movies in the past. There are no real surprises, there are scenes that don’t add much, and the musical score can be intrusive but this is a well meaning, intimate, superbly acted meditation on grief and abandonment that will make you think about how we cope with tragedy.
The world premiere of The Sea is on 23rd June at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013