Festivals

Sea Fever

{Fantastic Fest} Movie Review: Sea Fever

Sea Fever is terrifying eco horror in shades of blue and red.

Admittedly I went through a Deadliest Catch phase.  There was something about the wild sea and the fishermen and women who braved it that made it a guilty favorite and a must-watch.  If there was a reoccurring theme for my favorite movies at this year’s Fantastic Fest it would have to be vast ocean movies. Between Sea Fever and Sweetheart, the ocean has become one of the creepiest places left to explore. Sea Fever won’t let us forget it.

Siobahn is a biologist specializing in analyzing migration patterns to predict population growth of ocean species. She is a scientist who is far more at home in the laboratory then out in the world around other people. Her inability to socialize is the last obstacle standing between her and her PH.d. So she boards a fishing vessel to finish out her practicum.  The fishing vessel run by Freya and her husband Gerard is rapidly running out of money and hasn’t paid its crew in months. Despite its lack of financial success, the couple has turned the small crew into a family. Everyone is happy to be there and trust them to make good decisions. They are happy until they learn Siobahn is a redhead. You see, according to Irish folklore redheads at sea are a bad omen.  As Gerard leads them into an excluded zone in the middle of the ocean, they become trapped by a giant parasite those omens become a reality. The rest of the film becomes an exercise in survival as the crew tries to deal with the parasite which is slowly eating the ship from the outside and the people from the inside.  

Courtesy of Bright Moving Pictures

Siobahn is hardly a unique character.  If Hermione Corfield did not play her with such earnestness and nuance we might even say the quiet anti-social scientist is a bit of a contrivance.  However, Corfield is so fully committed to playing Siobahn honestly we feel bad for her social anxiety and we root for her even when we don’t necessarily agree with her.  Both Connie Nielsen and Dougray Scott are solid in there rolls as Freya and Gerard. Their desperate choices never feel dumb. They feel like choices many of us may make as times become more dire.  The rest of the ensemble is entirely believable as a family that has been forged out of work and struggle if not out of blood. This makes the emotional stakes of the film even more important. There is not a villain on the boat.  We want them all to make it even though we know they probably won’t.

The creature design is pretty incredible and seems to borrow heavily from the color palette used in Color Out of Space.  As we get a sense of size from the giant creature that lives in the ocean it draws more on a sense of awe than fear. While the creature is quite well developed when we move above water things get a little rockier.  I found a lot of the CGI outside of the water to be pretty unbelievable. There is some suspect CG work and the parasite keeps morphing. The rules stay pretty static when the creature is in the water but we get a much looser set of evolutionary standards once it moves above board.  While it never took me out of the movie it didn’t necessarily seem fair, which may have been the point.

There is a moment in this film where Siobahn is making the argument that the collective is more important than the single person and I knew I had heard that argument earlier in the day.  Sea Fever is inherently an Irish film. Writer/Director Neasa Hardiman grew up making movies in Ireland. Maybe I am reaching too far but I think it’s easy to read this movie as a parable of Brexit.  As Great Britain seeks to leave the EU its islands like Scotland and Ireland seem stuck in the middle of the fight. In many ways, Scotland and Ireland have the most to lose and their opinions are certainly mixed on leaving Europe. If Brexit is a struggle for the soul of England than Sea Fever may be the cipher we use to evaluate the morality of the situation.  

Half Deadliest Catch, Half Custeau documentary Sea Fever is a creature feature that dreams of bigger things.  Sometimes those big things land sometimes they are lost at sea. Generally speaking, it’s a hit that deserves a chance to be seen by a larger audience.  As a fan of eco-horror and my own Irish heritage, it was a great ride with great people. Put on your life vest, try to keep your head above water, and give Sea Fever a chance. 

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