Film Review: “Sea Fever” Stays Afloat with Frightening, Intense Dread That Hits Close to Home
Written by: Matt Patti | April 10th, 2020
Sea Fever (Neasa Hardiman, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
In the world of today, affected by the coronavirus pandemic, fear is at a peak. Humans are afraid of being infected with something they cannot see, and it has caused a mass panic, with strict precautions and measures put in place. In these hard times, some people have turned against one another, fighting over supplies and fighting amongst family members. Some are even fighting against the severity of the situation, refusing to believe how big of a deal it is and disobeying government orders. It’s a scary time right now, which I’m sure will be chronicled in many films and documentaries in the future. Many films in the past, however, have also had pandemics and disease at the heart of their subject matter. Sea Fever is one of those films. An official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival, Sea Fever is a film that explores infection and paranoia on a much smaller scale: a crew aboard a ship at sea.
The film begins as we meet Siobhan (Hermione Corfield, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), a brilliant scientist who studies biology, specifically anomalies in marine life. She is set to partake in a sea expedition with some fishermen off the coast of Ireland where she’ll inspect their catches for any said anomalies. The crew on the boat is very close, having seemingly been on many trips together. Siobhan struggles to coexist with them, as she prefers to work alone in a lab with no distractions. When a mysterious infection begins to spread throughout the crew, however, Siobhan must gain everyone’s trust in order to work together to find a way to stop it.
Especially because of today’s battle with the coronavirus, this film is very intense and frightening. I’m sure the filmmakers didn’t plan to release this online in the midst of a pandemic when they set out to shoot it, but that fact just makes the film that much more effective. To be clear, though, Sea Fever would be an effective thriller at any time of release, even long before the pandemic. The claustrophobia induced by the small crew on a boat trying to fight off something they can’t see is enough to get the heart pounding. The graphic side effects of getting the infection also helps to disturb the viewer, along with the crew’s collective paranoia.
Sea Fever is shot beautifully with some great wide vistas of the open sea, the ship dwarfed by the ocean, and some very interesting use of color. The soundtrack is also notable and nicely fits each scene. Corfield plays Siobhan well, although it’s a difficult role, since Siobhan is a shy, anti-social, but very intelligent, scientist who prefers not to speak very often. Watching her communication with the crew grow throughout the film as the situation worsens makes for great character development and much intrigue. The rest of the performances are just ok, Connie Nielsen (Wonder Woman) the only bright light of the supporting cast with her performance as protective crew leader Freya. The rest of the characters, unfortunately, are quite forgettable, but in a situation as dire as theirs you still feel for them and care about them, even if you can’t distinguish them from their fellow crew mates.
Without getting into any spoilers, the infection itself – and what causes it – is quite interesting and terrifying. It is explored throughout the film in a very unique and smart way, with some intriguing scientific explanations which seem all too real. The only issues I have with Sea Fever are that the first act is a bit slow and drags slightly and that only two characters are legitimately interesting. But when the infection becomes a character in its own right, it helps the film stay above water and the need for other interesting characters is simply nullified. The film really picks up in its final act, with the intensity and panic ramping up to a thrilling finish. Overall, Sea Fever is a gripping, smart, and intriguing thriller that is both timely and relevant.
Currently available on demand and digital.