Sydney Film Festival
Directed by Neasa Hardiman
Review by Sarah List
Humans intruding into nature’s territories. Not following instructions. Prioritising their own needs over the collective good. Scientists being ignored. Humans failing to predict that nature has a has way of settling the ledger. Are any of these themes sounding familiar? Perhaps a little too familiar?
Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) is a PhD student who takes a trip aboard the fishing trawler Niamh Cinn-Oir, in order to collect the last of the data required for her marine research thesis. Struggling with human interaction at the best of times, Siobhan finds the confines of the ship and a crew with starkly different priorities and superstition around redheads difficult to navigate. The crew are on edge, due to deep debt and the need for a substantial haul to save them, and the captain Gerard (Dougray Scott) makes a risky decision against the crew (and audience’s) knowledge to enter an exclusion zone where he expects the best haul to be located. The trawler finds itself caught on an unseen snag below the surface, and soon the hull beings leaching a blue gelatinous fluid. Siobhan dons her wetsuit to investigate the hull, and what she finds is an ensnarement of glowing tentacles of an enormous deep sea squid that has captured the Niamh Cinn-Oir. Once back on board, the squid seemingly lets go of the trawler, but the nightmare is only just beginning as the crew begin to show signs of infection, as the blue jelly spreads throughout the ship.
If this premise is sounding familiar, that may be because the concept has been similarly used on land, sea and in space many times before. Sea Fever attempts to distinguish itself via parallels to our environmental crisis and even COVID (although the latter was probably not intentional at the time of filming), building suspense via the unseen and the selfish acts of the crew to self-preserve despite the risks to the population on land. Will the crew survive? Will their survival place everyone back home at risk? And the most gripping question of all for fellow PhD holders out there – will Siobhan complete her thesis?
A well shot, stylish turn on a familiar story.