It appears the ‘Book vs Film’ argument is one that undulates as much as the waves of John Banville’s Booker prize winning novel on which this adaptation is based. For every decent Potter or LOTR adaptation or The Shining among a few there’s always a nagging sense that books often make for better stories on the page than the screen. Can director Stephen Brown buck the trend then with this tale of a doomed childhood summer resurfacing once more?
It helps of course that Banville, clearly attached to his superb novel, is brought in on screenplay duties and that a cast including Hinds, McElhone and Rampling provide plenty of experience to steady the ship.
It’s the former though who takes centre stage, playing historian Max Morden who heads to the Irish seaside town after the death of his wife where he, as a child, spent an impressionable summer with the Graces and their two children Chloe and Myles. There he has no choice but to face the ghosts of the past and a haunting tragedy which has shaped his life ever since.
Given the talent both off and on screen then you’d probably expect The Sea to be the kind of dramatic, captivating drama the British Film Industry seems to conjure up with ease. Odd then that given all the right ingredients Brown manages to cook up a rather dry, drab and dull tale which is never anywhere near as involving or tragic as it should be.
That’s not to say that Hinds doesn’t acquit himself well, just that he appears to be as lost as his mournful character Max as he meanders around the town either engaging or upsetting the locals. With a story that depends so much too on its childhood cast, it’s a shame they’re given little to do but act suitably wild and weird as Banville’s script shifts between this sepia-soaked past and a rather blue-hued modern day without really making necessary links until the very end.
Clocking in at under 80 minutes it’s odd then that what could have made for an engaging TV special or 3-part series is given such short shrift on the big screen. Probably just as well though; clearly The Sea is something to be read and savoured rather than seen and soured.