While the simplest way to describe the new film Sea Fever is “Alien on the ocean,” let’s get something out of the way. It is not Alien on the ocean. OK, yes, Sea Fever is about a group of people on a ship who begin to be picked off by a mysterious creature. Also, like Alien, Sea Fever has an incredible lead character played by an up-and-coming actress. But Sea Fever takes Alien’s DNA and grounds it in reality, constructing a way to make such a scenario actually plausible. It’s creepy and entertaining, but never quite rises above that.
Hermione Corfield plays Siobhán, a student who joins a family fishing boat to do research for her doctorate. She’s insanely smart but shy and restrained, a demeanour that instantly feels out of place with this close-knit group of people who’ve obviously been making a living together for years. That crew is lead by Freya and Gerard (Connie Nielsen and Dougray Scott) who, after a feeling out period, begin to accept Siobhán into their makeshift family. And just about then is when they get stuck dead in the water by some mysterious force.
One of the most particular things about Sea Fever is that nothing stays a mystery for long. The crew figures out what’s holding the ship in place immediately. Even when a major event begins to reveal a much more deadly result, Siobhán is ahead of the curve and strategises how to fight this menace. What’s less easy for her is figuring out how to stop it.
Written and directed by Neasa Hardiman, Sea Fever keeps the audience engaged from frame one. The script doesn’t waste a scene in advancing the story, building relationships, or developing characters. And yet, the film never deviates from that slow and steady momentum. There’s one big punctuation in the middle of the movie and yet, beyond that, the film is relatively even keel. So, by the end, when we expect a big showdown or grand climax, it’s not there.
That’s in part because Corfield is so damn good as Siobhán. She’s created a character so talented and strong that even if she can’t defeat the evil, she’s almost always outwitting it. In a way, the character is too good for this story. She keeps everything in check and, as a result, the movie stays in check too.
You’ll like Sea Fever. It’s well-made and entertaining to watch, but very little of it sticks with you. Corfield’s performance does, as does the claustrophobic setting and a few choice shots across the movie but, beyond that, it feels like a movie we’ve seen before — done well, but we’ve seen better.
Sea Fever had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest 2019. It does not have a release date.