A weekend in the country on a river barge in Surrey.


The subject matter of Tupaq Felber's feature debut shot on the River Wey in Surrey is not without promise but, while some have admired this work, I feel that Tides is drastically weakened by a series of misjudgments. What we are offered here is a deliberately small-scale work that focuses on four friends taking a break together on a river barge. The craft has been hired by Jon (Jon Foster) and the occasion is also something of a reunion since these friends, all actors, have not seen one another for some time. Simon (Simon Meacock) is, like Jon, a married man, while Zooby (Jamie Zubairi), who finds it therapeutic to design and paint cards is, not necessarily by choice, more of a loner. The fourth member of the group is the one female: this is Red (Robyn Isaac) who has an uneasy love life and is on board for just one night since she is due to attend a wedding (not her own) in Chelsea.


In due course we learn that Simon's family commitments are adding to his worries over the possibility that his role in a TV series that has become his main source of income is about to be written out. But it is clear from the start that an anxiety of a deeper kind is connected with something that Jon has recently experienced. The friends ponder the big question: should they talk to him about this issue or should they avoid it? However, the audience is kept in the dark until the film's last few minutes as to the nature of what has happened.


The delay of this revelation is, I think, one of Felber's misjudgments. If it had been stated up front, the audience might have felt more involved. As it is the boat trip finds all four chatting away at length, drinking and taking drugs. I wouldn't argue with those who describe these characters as authentic even if at times some of the improvised dialogue sounds to be just that. But believing in these people does not make them congenial and, in a film in which very little actually happens, I felt trapped in their company neither amused nor sympathetic.


We are given so long to ponder what the hidden past event is that its eventual disclosure risks coming across as an anticlimax although in retrospect one can recognise that the role of friends in such circumstances is not without potential as a dramatic theme and the same can be said when the mood becomes more consolatory. But, if the final scenes are more effective than what precedes them, nothing can compensate for the other errors of judgment: the rhythmically emphasised music score which seems so inappropriate, the use of tiresome inserts and editing by the director himself which is too quick not to impede the smooth flow of the 'Scope  images. It is, of course, mere bad luck that this film's delayed release means that we can compare it to its disadvantage with Anchor & Hope, a work even more atmospheric in conveying life on a barge and with expert colour photography that wins out over the black and white images here.




Cast: Jon Foster, Simon Meacock, Jamie Zubairi, Robyn Isaac, Gary Carr, Stephen Craft, Rosie Holcombe, Roderick Hill, Amanda Rawnsley.


Dir Tupaq Felber, Pro Samantha Chitty, Tupaq Felber, Kamilla Kristiane Hodoi and Emilie Jouffroy, Screenplay Tupaq Felber, Jon Foster, Robyn  Isaac, Simon Meacock and Jamie Zubairi, Ph Paul O'Callaghan, Ed Tupaq Felber, Music Kas-tro, Alvin Ryan and Anthony Russell.


Open Palm Films/Independent Content/Elation Pictures-Axiom Films.
99 mins. UK. 2017. Rel: 7 December 2018. Cert
. 15.