Sea Fever (2020)

Director: Neasa Hardiman
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Certification: 15
Starring: Hermione Corfield, Ardalan Esmaili, Olwen Fouéré, Jack Hickey, Elie Bouakaze, Dougray Scott, Connie Nielsen, Dag Malmberg

For her narrative feature debut, Neasda Hardiman certainly wears her influences on her sleeve. Serving as writer and director, she crafts a tale of isolation which is indebted to John Carpenter's The Thing, but amidst the close-quarters butting of heads, there's enough of a singular identity for this film to work in its own right. The story follows Marine biology student, Siobhan (Hermione Corfield), who has joined up with a trawler crew, as part of a research expedition. While fishing in the West Irish seas, they find themselves marooned, and struggling against a parasitic infection, which threatens their lives.

Prior to this, Neasda Hardiman was best known for her documentary and television work, but what plays out here is undoubtedly cinematic, and carries much promise. Making the most of its isolated location, the story keeps you engaged to discover what will happen next, and on edge as to where the danger will come from. Sure, the parasitic entity threatens the crew, but the rising tensions are just as threatening. While conflict is born out of the scenario, Hardiman doesn't focus as much on the paranoia and mistrust which was evident in Carpenter's classic, but that doesn't lessen how claustrophobic the piece can become.

From the opening scene, Siobhan's character is clearly defined. She's uncomfortable around people, feeling more secure in the company of cold hard truths, and the research excursion is set up to help her come out of her shell. Hermione Corfield captures the introvert nature of her character well, while showcasing where her beliefs lie. Upon arriving on the fishing trawler, the crew are stunned by Siobhan's red hair, as superstitious beliefs liken it to be bad luck. Such omens aren't shared by our lead, who puts her faith into scientific fact, and the statistics which come from it, aspects which lay the groundwork for the contrasting personalities who inhabit the screen.
Populating the trawler are an array of characters, each with their part to play, whom we can believe in. They never come off as caricatures, there to unnecessarily sow conflict, as we understand their actions, and hope for the best amongst it all. It helps that the cast do such wonderful work, but the standouts have to be Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen. Playing the husband and wife duo who run the trawler, they look out for all on-board, while trying to stay above the financial difficulties their business faces.
Though, what's most striking is the sheer circumstance which has occurred, making this film feel extremely relevant to what's been happening with COVID-19. As we see characters disregard warnings, choosing to do what they want, instead of following safety protocols and isolating, it hits rather close to home. An uncomfortable cherry on top of this cinematic sundae.

Sea Fever is available to rent on VOD.