Sea Fever




The crew of a fishing trawler is infected from an unknown source in this ho-hum Irish bio-thriller.


Sea Fever

Beware the seafarer with a fever.  It may be synchronicity – or just canny programming – but the recent slew of online releases seems uncannily relevant to the times we’re living through. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia's The Platform appeared to be a critique of those who can, helping themselves to what is available at the expense of those who come after – that is, a metaphor for panic buying. Alistair Banks Griffin's The Wolf Hour is the tale of a woman driven insane in self-isolation. And in the Netflix actioner Extraction, Dhaka is put into lockdown. Now we have a thriller from Ireland about a deadly infection that emphasises the urgency of self-imposed quarantine.


Here, “sea fever” is described as a psychosis brought on by a lack of sleep. The marine biologist Siobhán (Hermione Corfield) stresses that sleep deprivation impairs one’s cognitive powers, although fatigue proves to be the least of her worries. Conducting a field study on the fishing trawler Niamh Cinn Óir, the socially awkward, red-headed scientist is immediately frowned on as an ill-omen because of the colour of her hair. The boat’s name translates as “Niamh of the Golden Hair,” a reference no doubt lost on most non-Celtic viewers. Still, thanks to her scientific acumen, if not her personality, Siobhán is accepted by the skipper Gerard (Dougray Scott), his colleen Freya (Connie Nielsen), the owner of the vessel, and the skeleton crew of four. But when Gerard steers the boat into an exclusion zone for illicit profit, the trawler is engulfed by an insidious life form.


The template is obvious: in another roaming commercial vessel, the crew of the Nostromo in Alien were seven in number. The central character and crew member who takes charge is female. And the tentacled alien life form exudes an ominous ooze that confounds all scientific understanding. The difference here is that in the North Atlantic no one can hear you scream. But too much happens too soon for us to be emotionally invested in any of these characters, however credibly rendered they may be. And Siobhán herself is a strangely unsympathetic heroine, telling her boss at the film’s start that, “I don’t do ‘joining in’”, to explain her disinterest in teamwork. What she is interested in is jellyfish and predicting ecological outcomes, not that it does her any good. The writer-director Neasa Hardiman may be commended for putting a young female biologist centre stage, but she is unable to make us care for her dramatis personae. And had she not stumbled on a scenario that addresses both infection and quarantining, her disposable bio-fi thriller would have floated by unnoticed.




Cast: Hermione Corfield, Ardalan Esmaili, Olwen Fouéré, Jack Hickey, Elie Bouakaze, Dougray Scott, Connie Nielsen, Dag Malmberg.


Dir Neasa Hardiman, Pro John McDonnell and Brendan McCarthy, Screenplay Neasa Hardiman, Ph Ruairí O'Brien, Pro Des Ray Ball, Ed Barry Moen and Julian Ulrichs, Music Christoffer Franzén, Costumes Maeve Paterson, Dialect coaches Brendan Gunn and Barbara Berkery.


Bright Moving Pictures/Creativity Capital/Fantastic Films/Flexibon Films/Frakas Productions/Makar Productions-Signature Entertainment.

90 mins. Ireland/Belgium/Sweden/Scotland. 2020. Rel: 24 April 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. Cert. 15.