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Sea Fever: A timely quarantine thriller

  • Published at 04:45 pm May 31st, 2020
Sea Fever is the feature film directorial debut of Neasa Hardiman| Collected

Sea fever was released on April 10, 2020

A crew of Irish fishermen stands to lose their boat once and for all due to a back-to-back piling up of financial losses. They must sail towards the far reaches of the sea in the hope of an exceptionally big catch to save their livelihood from certain doom. They have a rather ragged, occasionally resigned look of a weathered trawler crew, and no end of superstitions to guide and colour their desperate voyage into the bewildering, violent sea.

A red-haired, young marine scientist named Siobhan accompanies the tight-knit crew as part of her field work to observe patterns of anomalies in sea life. She uses her words sparingly, avoids raucous dinners with her boat mates and has a remarkable knack for unearthing reason amidst the most baffling of catastrophes. Despite her inclination to retreat from others, to let out a certain untamed bluntness that often borders on insolence, she manages to build, hesitantly at first, a somewhat intimate bond with her boat mates as the trawler ventures further and further away from all traces of land.

These eventful days and nights, burgeoning new friendships and hopes of returning home with the much-needed cash are all dashed against the tumultuous sea when a mysterious underwater creature latches onto the fishing boat after mistaking it for a whale, and releases a venomous substance that starts to infect and kill one crew member after another. 

Watching a boat full of people scrambling for their lives, hesitating to quarantine, fighting an enemy they cannot see and feel utterly hopeless against, might be a little on the nose for many of us right now. Yet Sea Fever has more to offer than its eerily similar setting to our real-life ghost towns that were once teeming with life, and gives a necessary lesson in humility and individual responsibility.

Hermione Corfield, a young promising actor who received acclaim for her performance in last year’s indie survival thriller Rust Creek, plays the lead role of Siobhan| Collected

Ever since the pandemic befell us, stories of people violating rules of social distancing all across the world have been blaring non-stop on TV screens. Experts have advised in favor of lifting the lockdown rather than mounting pressure on the government to ease the suffering of those in need. Meanwhile, the virus is leaving trail of destruction across the world without showing signs of relent. In times like ours, Sea Fever provides a timely, stirring commentary as to how individuals can take decisions that might make the difference between life and death. 

Would the crew decide to quarantine themselves which might eventually cause their death in the middle of the sea for lack of medical attention or go home and risk the possibility of infecting their communities?

In a telling moment from the first half of the film, the boat owner Freya points to the glowing surface of the midnight sea to Siobhan who identifies the glow to be caused by Bioluminescent Phytoplankton. Freya nods in a curious acknowledgment and goes on to say that it is the golden hair of Niamh Cinn-Óir  lighting up the sea. After Niamn, a mere mortal princess, lost her lover Oisín, she gave herself to the sea. Hers is the story of a powerful sacrifice that has transcended death in the name of love, and tamed the majestic night sea.

Siobhan does not retort or object to Freya’s myth. Humbled by what either of them cannot fully comprehend, the two women can see where the other is coming from, recognize that a single mortal’s sacrifice has the power to expel the sea's darkness, and gaze in wonder at the blue water stretching out before them as far as the eye can see.

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