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TIFF 2019: ‘Sea Fever’ is a Gripping Creature Feature With a Grave Warning at the Centre – Review

The sea is vast and full of wonders — or horrors depending on the day. In Neasa Hardiman’s sci-fi/horror she explores the nightmarish entities that lurk beneath the surface that will make you think twice about venturing too far from shore. Hermione Corfield leads a top-notch cast of a marooned crew faced with an impossible situation: a giant unknown creature has latched onto their boat and has infected the water supply with parasites.

Siobhán (Corfield) reluctantly joins a group of fishermen on their next expedition to conduct field tests. The crew is led by Captain Freya (Connie Nielsen) and her husband Gerard (Dougray Scott). Unbeknownst to Siobhán – who is deemed unlucky for being a redhead – and most of the crew, this may be the last expedition if they don’t score big. With the stakes high for Freya and Gerard, choices are made that will change all of their lives forever. Or, end it for some.

Freya (Connie Nielsen) in Sea Fever (Courtesy of Bright Moving Pictures/Eagle Film)

Hardiman is very careful to not make Sea Fever your run-of-the-mill creature feature. Instead, it is a careful study of human behaviour and a compelling argument for why we should respect our environment. The core of the film focuses on behaviour. As our protagonist studies the behavioural patterns of nature, writer-director Hardiman is exploring human behaviour in a controlled environment. She has us think about the choices that are made when we are under duress. When do you put your needs over the needs of others? What happens when you have the fate of others in your hands? What do you do when the biggest threat to your life and others is seemingly indestructible egg-laying parasites that came from what could only be described as a monster?

This sci-fi/horror fits beautifully in a small, but poignant sub-genre of eco-thrillers as it is not the kind of creature feature that requires you to turn off your brain. Sea Fever is a beautifully shot (thanks to Christoffer Franzén’s cinematography) and well realized story, that has emotional depth and nuance. It is tense and horrifying, especially if you are already weary of the sea. So, be careful when you leave shore, and be sure to not have a redhead on board.

Sea Fever premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival under the Discovery program and is currently without US distribution.

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