Max (Ciarin Hinds) is a lonely widower at the end of his emotional tether. Seeking solace, he returns to a seaside town where he spent his youth. Remembering the family who took him in, Carlo (Rufus Sewell) and Connie (Natasha McElhone), he ponders his choices. Drifting between the past and present, Max’s thoughts unearth a wealth of forgotten memories which may unlock his slowly enveloping despair.
Often frustrating viewing, The Sea could have been better. Not that its themes of loneliness and loss aren’t interesting; it’s the way they are presented. Under Stephen Brown’s direction, these elements are never realised to their fullest potential. Chief amongst its failures are the slim plotting and characterisation. Neither genuinely conveys any atmosphere or narrative rhythm.
It’s difficult becoming involved in the story due to Max’s morose nature. He isn’t a particularly sympathetic figure whose enduring gruffness would push anyone away. Only when he reflects on his youth does a semblance of his humanity surface. These scenes are the film’s most successful. Brown’s use of photography effectively highlights the sea’s twin personas of harshness and beauty. Both mirror Max’s past and present mindset with it being an unwitting witness to the dramas surrounding him.
The Sea is very much a mixed bag. Having potential to tell a stirring story, it generally fails to captivate. The modicum of intrigue it has at least gives it some merit even if its aim in telling a gripping tale is lost at sea.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 5