“Things happen at sea.” This simple statement was never more true than in the new Sci-Fi Horror offering Sea Fever. Gunpowder & Sky, via their Sci-Fi imprint DUST, delivers the film to Digital on Friday, April 10th, 2020.
Introverted marine biology student Siobhán (Hermione Corfield: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi 2017, Rust Creek 2018) would much prefer to spend her time alone in a lab than in tight-knit quarters amidst strangers. Unfortunately for her personal tastes, her doctoral program calls for her to spend time in the field, recording data and collecting samples of marine fauna. As she explains to anyone who inquires, her job is to identify and “extrapolate patterns from variations in deep sea faunal behavior, then generate algorithms and computer simulations to predict the ecological outcomes.”
Aboard a sea trawler working off the coast of Ireland, she meets Freya (Connie Nielsen: Gladiator 2000, Wonder Woman 2017) and Gerard (Dougray Scott: Ever After 1998, Mission: Impossible II 2000), the owners of the ship that she will call home for the next few weeks. Along with their sea family of Ciara (Olwen Fouéré: This Must Be The Place 2011, Mandy 2018), Johnny (Jack Hickey: Penny Dreadful series, Mary Shelley 2017), Sudi (Elie Bouakaze in his acting debut), and Omid (Ardalan Esmaili: The Charmer 2017, Greyzone series), they depend upon the bounty of the sea for their livelihood—and money has been tight.
Seemingly from the moment that Siobhán reveals her beautiful red mane, the trouble starts. Not long after they travel through a dense field of bioluminescent phyto-plants, the ship strikes something in the water and its propeller becomes stuck. Trapped out to sea, Siobhán and Omid soon discover that their situation is even more dire than originally believed: something is altering the texture of the wooden bilge and trying to force its way inside.
Clocking in at 90 minutes, Sea Fever was written and directed by the exceptional Neasa Hardiman (Happy Valley series, Jessica Jones series). Billed as a Sci-Fi and Horror blend, Sea Fever translates more as a Thriller that rests atop a Sci-Fi premise, but Science Fiction in the sense of actual science and not so much those green guys from Mars. Imagining a brand new species that rests at the bottom of the sea, the film weaves a tale of bodily horrors and infection, though Hardiman focuses more on the morality of the issues that are raised than on gratuitous gore and goo. In this, Sea Fever is a high-brow take on the Sci-Fi Thriller, one that draws some very (emphasis on very) general influences from films such as 1989’s The Abyss and 2011’s Contagion.
Unlike the aforementioned offerings, however, Sea Fever moves at a steady, but measured pace and never seeks to provide cheap thrills. A Thriller with a sophisticated premise, it brilliantly utilizes the moody cinematography of Ruairí O’Brien (Teeth short 2007, The Fall series)—including some wonderful underwater imagery—to aid its delivery of a haunting tale of unknown horrors at sea. Thalassophobes need not apply!
All joking aside, we are happy to say that this is a claustrophobic story with some truly exceptional acting. Corfield absolutely shines in the role of Siobhán, an intelligent young woman and a positive twist on the loner (who is generally seen as evil simply for being socially avoidant). Embarrassed to be accused of bringing bad luck to the ship, she starts off uncertain and shy and evolves into a strong-willed, moral superstar. A woman who is willing to literally die for her beliefs, Corfield’s Siobhán is an inspiring, though often understated, protagonist, one that allows Corfield to show the range of her nuanced talents.
Esmaili also makes a powerful impact as Omid, an intelligent man who defies all stereotypes. There’s a gentle nature about Omid that makes his character appealing, relatable even for those that have never spent a day at sea. He too delivers a performance that is subtle, never glaring, and complements Corfield flawlessly. While Nielsen, Scott, Fouéré, and Hickey are all excellent in their roles, as well, kudos must be given to Bouakaze for his wonderful acting debut. Though he’s not given a world of material to work with, he carries his weight alongside his talented co-stars.
Perhaps what’s most hard-hitting about Sea Fever is something that no filmmaker could have predicted in advance. A film with obvious purpose, one of the most vital issues that is addressed herein is the morality of self-quarantining measures and the moral responsibility of one individual in preventing an epidemic. Further debates abound, but the self-quarantine aspect of the film is eerily on point; certainly this has always been an important topic, but no more so than right now. In this, Sea Fever is a tragically timely offering that raises questions that are currently being faced on a global scale.
It’s not everyday that a Sci-Fi Thriller can bring words such as beautiful to mind, but Sea Fever manages to do just this. Haunting in its layered tale, visually stunning, and with phenomenal acting, this is a film that, no matter how you categorize it, is a must for 2020. Thus, Cryptic Rock gives Sea Fever 4.5 of 5 stars.