Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Hermione Corfield, Connie Nielsen, Dougray Scott, Olwen Fouere, Jack Hickey, Ardalan Esmaili, Elie Bouakaze
Writer: Neasa Hardiman
Director: Neasa Hardiman
Distributor: Gunpowder & Sky
Release Date: (streaming and digital) April 10, 2020
“Sea fever” is a term for the mental condition that can result when sailors remain sleep-deprived for too long. It also describes a more literal ailment that afflicts the crew of a small Irish fishing trawler.
Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) is an antisocial marine biologist, who studies patterns in oceanic flora. Happiest in her lab, Siobhan reluctantly goes to sea to study the catch of the Niamh Cinn Oir, owned by married couple Freya (Connie Nielsen) and Gerard (Dougray Scott). The rest of the crew consists of elderly Ciara (Olwen Fouere), flirtatious Johnny (Jack Hickey), married Omid (Ardalan Esmaili), and tense Sudi (Elie Bouakaze). Sonar shows an enormous shoal of fish, but it is located within an exclusion zone. The craft is briefly gripped by an enormous marine creature of unknown species. It lets go, but leaves something behind.
As the situation goes from bad to worse, Siobhan and the ship’s crew must each deal with issues of contagion and personal responsibility. What can they do for one another? What, if anything, can they do to save the ship? Can they save themselves? Should they even try, if the effort endangers the population on land?
SEA FEVER writer/director Neasa Hardiman could hardly have known that her taut, contained thriller would come out at the exact moment that its issues are at the forefront of the minds of practically everybody on the planet. Yes, there is a light coating of science fiction in the premise, but even this is perfectly plausible. As it is, the movie seems to be a perfect parable about the real world.
While there is action, and flashes of impactful gore, SEA FEVER is based firmly in human drama, helped by a strong cast. It’s refreshing to see a genre movie that is well-written and well-directed enough for us to feel we know a great deal about its people without much exposition.
Another asset is that SEA FEVER finds moments to explore the wonders of nature, along with its terrors. Siobhan is appalled by what’s happening, but she’s fascinated as well. This is a kind of layering that doesn’t happen often with main characters in genre movies. Too frequently, only the bad guys express interest in the situation, as though scientific curiosity is a negative trait. In this case, it’s an asset.
Anyone watching SEA FEVER in the future who doesn’t check the release date will likely think the film was made in response to current events. In fact, movies don’t come much more prescient than this one.
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