Cinema Review: The Sea

Ciarán Hinds in a still from The Sea

DIR: Stephen Brown  • WRI: John Banville  PRO: David Collins, Michael Robinson, Luc Roeg • DOP: John Conroy • ED: Stephen O’Connell • MUS: Andrew Hewitt • DES: Derek Wallace • CAST: Bonnie Wright, Ciarán Hinds, Natascha McElhone, Rufus Sewell

Max Morden, grieving the loss of his wife Anna, returns to an Irish seaside village where he spent summers as a child. He struggles to finish a book about the painter Pierre Bonnard, but the village provokes memories of the summer when he met the Grace family, the children Myles and Chloe, their parents Connie and Carlo, and Rose, the children’s young governess. Anna’s slow death from cancer continues to haunt Max.


John Banville adapts his 2005 Man Booker prizewinning novel. Some of the book’s more literate pleasures, such as Banville’s playful punning and concern with the meaning of words, gives the dialogue a pretentious feel, Anna’s musings on the word “patient” and the recurrence of “stranded” being two obvious examples. While the screen provides an excellent medium for flitting back and forth through time, Banville’s adaptation fails to capture the uncertainty and unreliability of Max’s meditations that pervade the book. The filmmakers try to capture something like this with characters speaking their lines off-screen while their on-screen mouths don’t move, presumably reflecting that it’s Max’s memory we’re seeing and hearing. It’s a challenging task to bring such fiction to the screen; this adaptation has lost the structural complexity of its source but remains faithful to its emotional core.


A notable cast brings Banville’s fascinating characters to life. Ciarán Hinds, with his craggy face, impresses as the dilettante, worn by his experiences and troubled by his memories. Charlotte Rampling gives Miss Vavasour appropriate mysteriousness, while Sinéad Cusack ably takes some of the more memorable lines as the dying Anna. Rufus Swell’s swaggering turn as Carlo Grace brings an enjoyable roguery, enlivening the film’s grim mood. Unfortunately, the younger cast lacks experience and conviction to give meaning to the subtext of their scenes.


The title, of course, means there are frequent shots to the beautiful briny, and water recurs as a motif, as in Anna’s bath and bleak rain on a window. DOP John Conroy’s lighting patterns give Max’s childhood memories a warmer glow than the dark blue and grey hues of scenes set in the present. The camera moves frequently when static shots or long takes might have given the viewer time and space to meditate and interpret such Max’s memories, as we might do when trying to assimilate Max’s ruminations in the book.


At one point, Max chides his daughter for being of the generation who believe that “everything’s explained, everything’s accounted for”. References to Pierre Bonnard, the painter, make more sense if you know that his later works reflected his desolation following the death of his wife. The character Blunden has an uncertain past. He says he’s retired from the army but he have been active in Belfast. Anna’s past relationship with Serge troubles Max. The young Rose’s relationship with Connie Grace plays out on the sidelines in much the same way as many different possibilities and strands running through the film emerge and recede, just like water washing up on the seashore. It’s difficult to make a success out of the ephemeral in a medium that makes things visible, but director Stephen Brown, in his feature-length debut, makes an adequate, if not entirely successful, attempt.

John Moran

12A (See IFCO for details)
86 mins

The Sea is released on 18th April 2014


The Kid

The Kid

DIR: Nick Moran • WRI: Kevin Lewis, Nick Moran • PRO: Judith Hunt • DOP: Peter Wignall • ED: Trevor Waite • DES: Russell De Rozario • CAST: Natascha McElhone, Ioan Gruffudd, Rupert Friend

The Kid is the film adaptation of the autobiography of the same name, which details the abusive upbringing (or lack thereof) of Kevin Lewis. It has been crudely slotted into the ‘misery memoir’ genre but this doesn’t do justice to this stranger than fiction tale of a truly inspiring man whose good nature triumphed over incredible adversity and ended a cycle of violent physical and mental abuse.

The Kid is directed by Nick Moran who is best known for his role as Eddy in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Moran was approached to direct the film following the success of his first feature, Telstar, which he also wrote. The strength of Moran’s reputation and that of the source material meant that The Kid was blessed with an exceptionally gifted ensemble cast. Kevin Lewis is played as boy, teenager and adult by newcomer William Finn Miller, Augustus Prew and Rupert Friend respectively. All three do Kevin’s tormented past justice through their sympathetic portrayals with Friend of particular note as the insecure and heart-wrenchingly gentle adult Kevin. Friend threw himself head first into the role going so far as to get boxing lessons from our very own former World Champion, Steve Collins. Of the supporting cast Kevin’s parents, played by Natascha McElhone and Con O’Neill, are especially memorable. McElhone immerses herself in the role and is almost completely unrecognisable as the physically and mentally hideous villain of Kevin’s memoir. O’Neill is remarkable as Kevin’s alcoholic father and turns in a real star role as he somehow manages to evoke the audience’s sympathy despite his character’s considerable flaws. O’Neill was wisely retained by Moran from the leading role of Telstar and deserves to be in many more high profile and highly demanding roles in the future.

Given the brutal childhood of Kevin Lewis, The Kid could easily have been filmed along the lines of The Passion of The Christ but Moran mercifully chooses to focus instead on the uplifting success of Kevin’s life. The film does go to the dark places which are unavoidable in telling this story but chooses not to linger there. As Moran himself states; violence is a currency in the film but Kevin chooses not to endorse it and the film respects his attitude. There are moments of violence but these are brief and almost entirely kept off screen and never glorified.

With The Kid Nick Moran has justified his initial plaudits and is fully deserving of inclusion within a very exciting troupe of young, brave directors coming out of the UK at present. While he is not planning on hanging up his acting gloves just yet, one can only hope he continues on as he has begun and maintains his championing of Con O’Neill.

Peter White

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
The Kid
is released on 17th September 2010

The Kid Official Website