Neasa Hardiman’s low-budget Irish thriller is taut, claustrophobic, and evocative of the greats in all the right ways.
“Sea Fever” may not be the epidemic that’s currently strangling the world, but it’s certainly a fun title for a movie. This small, low-budget Irish thriller fancies itself something between Jaws and Alien, a tense, well-crafted piece of filmmaking with a bit of a bite. Helmed by Neasa Hardiman (who directed a few episodes of Jessica Jones), in light of recent, COVID-events, Sea Fever feels all too timely – and as a result, all the more terrifying.
Our unlikely protagonist is Siobhan (Hermione Corfield), a marine biology student with a sincerely anti-social streak. When we meet her, she’s literally ignoring classmates and cake in favor of more time in the lab, and looking for any excuse to miss her field assignment: a week on a fishing trawler. But after some prodding from her advisor, Siobhan sets out, meeting the captain Freya (Connie Nielsen), her husband and first-mate Gerard (Dougray Scott), Johnny (Jack Hickley), Omid (Ardalan Esmaili) and the rest of the ship’s crew.
Though Siobhan struggles to connect with the group, she becomes an invaluable asset when the ship gets stuck on an unidentified piece of marine life. At first, all involved assume their vessel has become attached to some sort of barnacle, but things are not as they appear. Worse, when the health of one of the crew members is compromised, the team is forced to make some tough decisions under intense conditions.
Over the course of a tight ninety minutes, Hardiman shoots the vessel in a style that constructs a fitting, claustrophobic atmosphere. Simultaneously, she unpacks a slew of relevant dynamics, as Siobhan’s science-first approach is at odds with everyone else’s more, ahem, compassionate perspective.
Better still, Sea Fever isn’t afraid to kill a few of its darlings to illustrate the stakes of breaking quarantine, a message we could all afford to hear a little louder. In the years to come, we’re sure to see an influx of corona-crisis content, but Sea Fever is available on-demand now – watch at your own discretion.
It’s all kept afloat by Corfield, who makes a strong impression and proves she can really carry a movie like this. Siobhan is shamelessly logical, but the actress finds brief beats to make her sympathetic, too. Esmaili also turns in a solid performance as the ship’s understated, extremely intelligent engineer.
It’s all kept afloat by Corfield, who makes a strong impression and proves she can really carry a movie like this.
Hardiman exercises real restraint throughout – never letting proceedings slip too deep into the horror or science-fiction genres. Put it this way: the ship could’ve gotten stuck on a Kraken, when the organism in question is much more reasonable.
This winds up working both for and against the film: it’s a movie called Sea Fever – going a bit bigger and getting a little silly wouldn’t have been the end of the world. Still, with a certain real sickness stopping most theatrical releases for the foreseeable future, you could do far worse than coming down with a case.
Sea Fever is currently available on digital and On Demand.