EIFF 2013: ‘The Sea’ is a well-acted but lethargic exploration of memory

- Advertisement -
The Sea


The Sea

The Sea
Written by John Banville
Directed by Stephen Brown
Ireland/UK, 2013

Adapted by John Banville from his Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Sea is a reflective but laboured character study, set in an Irish seaside town. After losing his wife to cancer, Max (Ciarán Hinds), an alcoholic art history dilettante, moves back to the place where he and his family used to spend their summer holidays, revisiting the scene of a childhood trauma in an attempt to forget his current plight. His memories are shown in flashback, depicting the summer leading up the event, when Max became friends with an eccentric, wealthy family who were renting a house in the town.

Incorporating three different timelines, the film works through narrative slippage, as memories from the past frequently intrude on the present. Director Stephen Brown handles this by using contrasting colour palettes to make clear distinctions between the childhood and adult scenes. The faded, shadowy tones of the present are gorgeous, dominated by deep blues, but the flashbacks are washed over with a sickly, golden hue.  Max remembers the holiday because of his burgeoning sexual awareness and the sadness that haunts him to the present day, but the apparent seriousness of these events is undermined by giving them the superficial look of an old-fashioned postcard.

Max also has flashbacks to the months leading up to his wife’s (Sinéad Cusack) death, through which we discover they had a prickly relationship, soured by infidelity. Their bitterness towards each other is never fully explained, which means it is difficult to empathise with Max’s sense of loss and makes these scenes agonising. Hinds is the best thing about the film, wringing what emotion he can out of a limited script, but his character is held back by frequent bouts of mundane drunkenness.

There are some powerful, evocative moments, like the opening scene in which Max walks unsteadily out to sea before being engulfed by dark, relentless waves. Some of the leaps in time also come off superbly, such as when a shot of a Bonnard painting transitions to one of Max’s wife lying in the bath. However, more often than not, The Sea is too predictable and the continual flashbacks quickly become grating.

It succeeds in creating the necessary intrigue but fails badly when it comes to the payoff. Charlotte Rampling’s character, the decorous guest house owner, exemplifies this weakness; she initially has a lot of potential but rapidly fades into the background, her development sidelined in favour of the past. You can see what Brown and Banville are attempting here, building the story around the unchanging sea, which invokes memory and forces slippage between different periods of time. Unfortunately, the pace is lethargic, there are no surprising revelations and the ending is horribly anticlimactic, meaning the strong performances and flashes of visual flair go to waste.

Rob Dickie

Visit the official website of the Edinburgh International Film Festival





10 Different Types of Financial Aid
Top 10 Richest American Idols
V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
The 5 Most Expensive Wireless Headphones: Ultimate Auditory Clarity
Business man watching business go bankrupt
25 Iconic Companies that Filed for Bankruptcy
20 Different Types of Balloons
12 Different Types of Tubas (Plus Interesting Facts)
Minivan loaded with beach stuff for day at the beach
The Ultimate Beach Checklist When Taking Young Kids to the Beach
Boy playing a trombone
10 Different Types of Trombones (Plus Fun Facts)
28 Different Types of Pineapple
20 Different Types of Limes
Table with a variety of nuts in bowls
20 Most Popular Types of Nuts (with Nutrition Fact Charts)
Bowl of cooked broccoli with walnuts
20 Types of Broccoli
Motorhome on highway going through Bryce Canyon in the USA
13 Types of RV’s (Recreational Vehicles) for All Kinds of Vacation Fun
Mechanic working on car in garage
10 Gift Ideas for Mechanics (Under $20, $50, $100 and $200)
A mechanic is repairing a car brake.
5 Different Types of Brake Pads and 6 Different Types of Brakes
9 Cool Minivan Alternatives
15 Awesome Alternatives to Skateboards (Plus Interesting Facts)
Baseball player hitting ball
10 Types of Baseball Bats that Rip the Leather Off the Ball
16 Types of Barbells for All Types of Lifts and Workouts
Basketball player slam dunking
29 Great Gift Ideas for Basketball Players (Under $20, $50, $100 and $200)
Inside a beautiful spa business
6 Capabilities the Best Spa Scheduling and Business Software Should Have
Ballet dancers in a dance studio
7 Features of the Best Dance Studio Business Software (Checklist)
Massage therapy clinic
7 Types of Massage Therapist Software for Growing the Business
10 Features the Best Hair Salon Scheduling Business Software Offer (Checklist)
Natural herbal vitamins.
10 of the Best Online Vitamin Stores
>