folktales & fairytales

[Movie Review] Sea Fever (2019) ★★★★☆

Siobhan at sea in Sea Fever 2019

Sea Fever holds up a mirror like the reflection of the deep sea, resulting in terrifying choices. 


Sea Fever is a science fiction psychological horror drama that takes place at sea as the title suggests. It’s a strong drama that focuses on the psychological and rational aspects of the story that makes up for the horror. It’s not a creature feature, nor a weird fiction tale or an action packed horror event.

Instead it’s a subtle tale about men against nature, and our behavior after encountering a new species. It is strongly based on the characters creating a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere in a life or death situation. With a slow pace it drags the audience into a terrifying tale of survival. 


Plot

Siobhán is a scientist student researching behavioral patterns in deep-sea organisms. She is sent by her professor on a field trip to continue her research in the real world instead of just in a lab. She goes on board of a trawler to examine and photograph their catch, but when they are out at sea something gets a hold of them. 

Strange barnacles have attached itself to the boat keeping it from going any further. As Siobhán is sent on an investigation into the sea she not only sees that strange tentacles have attached themselves to the boat, but that these tentacles belong to a much bigger luminescent sea creature.

They must find a way to get themselves detached but that isn’t their only problem while some greenish goo has spread around the ship containing toxic spores or parasites that act as a virus spreading death.


Why you should watch it

It’s a very subtle film with an intimate take on horror, terror and dread but it still is there, hiding on the boat, inside the crew and inside our own minds. It’s an ethical and global dilemma they have to face, in order to survive. Therein lies the horror. It’s not the sea creature that is attacking them ferociously and intendedly but it’s nature acting like a shark who mistook a surfer for a turtle. 

There is no villainous creature that has to be defeated, in fact it’s Siobhán that wants to keep the creature save. The film centers around her. She’s a loner, quiet, but smart and ethical. She’s not only the main character standing at the ready to know what to do, to solve problems rationally, but she’s also the voice of reason. The choice we all know we have to make in oder to preserve life. The life of the new species and the life of humankind.  

In contrast to her way of thinking the main crew is superstitious and pragmatic, the exact opposite of the scientific behavior of Siobhán. All the more while Siobhán has red hair, a sign of bad luck on a ship. That makes it also a tale about superstition versus science.

The name of the ship Niamh Cinn Óir is also the name of a woman who gave herself to the sea and the luminescence of the plankton is her long hair floating on the water, according to Irish folklore. This story is told to Siobhán when she is on board and connects the folklore and superstition even more. But it is also a beautiful but dramatic and tragic image that is shown at the end of the film. 

Although it’s not a creature feature, or action packed or with an emphasis on the creature, therefore avoiding cosmic horror, there still is one gruesome scene that is, due to the absence of real horror, even more horrifying. 

The sea creature is beautifully designed although it is a mere device that causes the story instead of acting as the main protagonist. It’s just there being what it is. We don’t get to see a lot of it, but its luminescent presence is magnificent. 

But the horror lies in the knowledge what must be done. It’s a responsibility that lies with all of them, but is only taken by Siobhán. But instead of using paranoia or a struggle for life and death on board, it keeps the realistic behavior of the characters close to heart. A bit of bickering, rationalization and different opinions and motivations create a tense atmosphere. Choices that they make are circling right back at them, either learning from their mistakes or change course 180 degrees.

These choices and behavior are exactly what Siobhán studies and it doesn’t surprise her, the sudden changes of heart or erratic behavior, it’s what she breaths and knows. And so should we. Humans are not that unpredictable, or wise and when in danger our lizard brain takes over. Unless you force yourself to act and think rationally. 

Sea Fever is a slow burn that will deliver some introspective research for us to chew over. It asks important questions and shows how our behavior can and do affect us and that nature isn’t here for us to use and abuse. It will fight back, intended or not.


My favorite part

Of course the horror part is a gruesome scene and original, setting further events into motion, physically, but also mentally. While always on the background old Ciara is an elusive figure with her long white hair, almost a folkloristic figure herself and the most superstitious. 

While everybody acts according to their own character, Freya wanting to save her boat, Gerard an opportunistic man, Johnny the love interest and nautical heir, Sudi who wants to be more then he is and Omid the technician and academic and soon to be father, all have their own reasons for acting like they do. Except for Ciara. She seems to have no background, no motivation, like she embodies the sea and its folklore. Her descent into madness is the only example of real sea fever.


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Thrill factor: ★★★☆☆

Originality factor: ★★★★☆


Cast and crew

Sea Fever is directed and written by Neasa Hardiman. It stars Hermione Corfield (Siobhán), Connie Nielsen (Freya), Dougray Scott (Gerard), Olwen Fouéré (Ciara), Jack Hickey (Johnny), Ardalan Esmaili (Omid) and Elie Bouakaze (Sudi).

Duration: 95 minutes. Music: Christoffer Franzén. Cinematography: Ruairí O’Brien. Edited by: Barry Moen, Julian Ulrichs. Produced by: Brendan McCarthy. John MCDonnell. Production company: Bright Moving Pictures. Distributed by: Eagle Film. 


Check the trailer below


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