AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2011
By Dave Wilson | October 16, 2011
Director: Julian Kerridge
Writers: Martin Sadofski, Julian Kerridge
Starring: Jack McMullen, Reece Noi, Leila Mimmack, Georgia Henshaw, Rita Tushingham, Maggie O’Neill, Andrew Knott
Seamonsters tells the story of two shiftless young friends, Sam (Jack McMullen) and Kieran (Reece Noi), who are biding their time during the off-season in the English seaside town of Worthing. Sam and Kieran are stuck in a kind of shiftless limbo. Too old to be kids any more, they drift along without any plans for the future, vaguely aware that they’re expected to be adults. Kieran is skittish and unpredictable, perhaps a little bit crazy. Sam is quiet and sensitive, and tends to back down when challenged.
Of course, even lifelong friendships can completely derail when a girl enters the picture. One day the boys meet Lori (Leila Mimmack), a mysterious, dark-eyed girl who’s somehow escaped their notice until now. Lori lives on the fringes with her sad, alcoholic mum in a ramshackle Day-Glo boat parked in the sand. Sam falls for Lori immediately. But there’s an underlying sadness to Lori, a haunted feeling, and she’s unwilling to let anyone get too close to her.
When Sam is called out of town to attend a funeral, Lori and Kieran end up spending the day together, doing stupid things, getting drunk, and collapsing by sea, despite the fact that they despise each other. By the time Sam returns, nothing is the same.
There is a sudden death around the midpoint of Seamonsters that has the effect of drawing the curtain closed on one story, and beginning another. What is nearly unforgivable is that a compelling character is introduced, invested with life, and then sacrificed to the dictates of the plot. Sober glimpses of back story and traumatic character history are referenced in an offhand manner, but are never given their due. The second section, which takes place primarily in London, feels like another film entirely, involving some of the same characters, only now Moony, Kieran’s girlfriend (Georgia Henshaw), emerges as a primary character. Moony, as played by the brilliant Georgia Henshaw, is so full of passion and life that she threatens to overshadow the rest of the proceedings.
In some ways, Seamonsters is incredibly evocative. Julian Kerridge succeeds in capturing that uniquely English, “Every Day is Like Sunday” sort of dead-end seaside ennui. The cinematography by Nick Gordon-Smith is frequently spectacular, rendering the low tide along the boardwalk with its endless stretch of glistening packed sand as something like the surface of an alien planet.
Unfortunately, the narrative itself feels unfocused, and the tone of the film is inconsistent, veering from the deadpan to the tragic, from the absurd and ironic to the sober and violent. Seamonsters assembles a likable young cast and works hard to capture a certain time and place. But it struggles to determine what sort of story it wants to tell.