A man (Ciaran Hinds) decides to head back to the area he grew up in as a child, revisiting the sea there and also a host of old memories vying for position in his mind. Something bad happened there in the past, that much we know, but it’s also clear that all won’t be revealed until the big finale. The fact that the main character is also dealing with the grief of losing his wife (Sinead Cusack) adds to the melting pot of emotions being carried around from scene to scene in this solid, but completely predictable, drama.
Director Stephen Brown is working from the script by John Banville (adapting the novel by . . . . . John Banville) and neither man helps the other in any way. The script has one or two decent moments, but it’s otherwise just the usual stuff that we’ve all seen a hundred times before. Events run in parallel, flashbacks keep appearing to drag things out and the whole thing meanders towards the end credits when it should instead be gathering some momentum at some point. Brown seems happy to treat the script as if it’s strong enough to carry without too many tricks or attempts to “cover over the cracks” and there are only one or two scenes that contain flourishes lifting the material up a notch.
The cast are a mixed bag, with the characters in the present faring better than those shown in the past. Ciaran Hinds is consistently excellent throughout, never going over the top and just pouring his usual quiet strength into the lead role. Charlotte Rampling and Karl Johnson are both very good as the people he ends up spending time with while revisiting his past. Sinead Cusack does well, as does Ruth Bradley in a relatively small role. Going back in time, however, and we get Rufus Sewell being allowed to ham it up at every opportunity (his character is a husband and parent who loves to goof around), Natasha McElhone being slightly strange and Bonnie Wright being almost too easy to ignore as the focus stays on three children (including the younger incarnation of the character played by Hinds) who will be involved in whatever event managed to lodge itself in the mind of the main character for decades.
The Sea isn’t bad. It’s just not good. The strength of the performances do a lot to save it from an even lower rating, but it’s a story undermined by a poor script (revelations are never revelatory, which removes most of its power) and in need of some direction that’s more than just competent.
DIRECTOR: STEPHEN BROWN
WRITER: JOHN BANVILLE
STARS: CIARAN HINDS, CHARLOTTE RAMPLING, SINEAD CUSACK, NATASHA MCELHONE, RUFUS SEWELL, BONNIE WRIGHT, KARL JOHNSON, RUTH BRADLEY
RUNTIME: 86 MINS APPROX