Irish films, as engaging as many of them are, usually tend to fall into one of two categories: historical pieces, such as Black 47, or crime comedies like The Young Offenders. Neasa Hardiman’s new film Sea Fever, however, proves that Irish cinema is capable of so much more.
Directed and written by Hardiman, Sea Fever introduces us to Siobhán (Hermione Crawford), a student marine biologist with severe social anxiety. She struggles to get along with the close-knit crew, who believe her red hair is bad luck. While conducting research on a fishing trawler off the west coast of Ireland, the Niamh Cinn Oir, they drift into an exclusion zone. The ship is attacked by a mysterious creature from the ocean floor, and the crew narrowly escapes only to learn they must struggle for their lives against a parasite living in their water supply.
Sea Fever is, in essence, a “creature feature” film in the same vein as Alien or The Abyss, but it works within its smaller scale budget and setting, expertly adapting the nature of such a film to its circumstances. The film’s narrative is less about the mysterious sea creature the crew members stumble upon and more about their own internal struggles.
Sea Fever uses its sparse soundtrack, composed by Christoffer Franzén, to really add extra weight to its more emotional and dramatic moments. The score also breaks up long periods in which the only background noise is that of the ship. Ruairí O’Brien’s cinematography captures gorgeous underwater shots of marine life and ocean-to-surface transitions.
The movie makes minimal use of CGI. Its practical effects are of a surprisingly high standard for an indie film. Despite its small budget, during many scenes, the film’s production qualities are on par with big Hollywood blockbusters.
Casting directors assembled the perfect team for the film. Crawford, who some viewers may recognize from The Last Jedi, is perfectly cast as the socially anxious Siobhán. The character must overcome her fears in order to get the crew to understand the gravity of the situation. With her insistence on quarantine and self-isolation, Sea Fever has coincidentally tapped into the mindset of contemporary viewers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Connie Nielsen (Hippolyta from Wonder Woman) brings her powerful presence to the screen as the ship’s first mate, Freya. The other cast members bring their own complex characters to life, allowing the audience to empathize with each of them as they struggle to survive. Omid (Ardalan Esmaili), for example, needs his pay desperately as his wife is expecting a child, and Sudi (Elie Bouakaze) is out to impress a local girl.
Sea Fever is not a long voyage, clocking in at just over an hour and a half, but some viewers may not enjoy its more dialogue-heavy approach. While this decision is not to the movie’s detriment, it may disappoint viewers who were hoping for more of an action-packed thrill ride.Sea Fever works well within its indie movie confines. With this tense and expertly crafted film, Neasa Hardiman proves that Irish cinema can wade into depths never before tread.
Featured Image by Bright Moving Pictures