23 November 2014 | bob the moo
Worthy but overly earnest, with too deliberate writing which pushes the cast to "act" rather than be
A few years ago this film was in the shortlist for the Oscar for the best live-action short film, and in the meantime it also won a handful of awards at film festivals around the country. Were this a feature film, it would be called out for just how "awards season" it is; now I do not know if the same approach does exist when it comes to short films but absolutely The Sea is All I Know is one such film. The plot involves an estranged couple coming together to take care of their terminally ill adult daughter.
The subject matter is not new ground and it is the sort of thing that allows for a lot of emotion and anguish, and the problem with this short film is that it really focuses on this. Everything feels very deliberate, very staged and very much written as a piece rather than feeling like we just dropped into the lives of real people. The film can even be broken down into "scenes"; for instance the female lead gets her monologue (in a church), the male lead gets his (on a boat), they both come together in a kitchen, and then the three leads share that final scene. In all of these instances the writing is very apparent – I know that all films are written, but the best writing is such that you do not notice it; here there is no doubt that this is something that was written rather than, again, words being spoken.
I'm not sure if this is more pronounced or mitigated by the cast. On one hand the talented cast of Leo and Gerety (a H:LOTS reunion) are more than good enough to add character and naturalism between then words; however on the other hand they also make the most of the chance to have a great scene – something the script is encouraging them to do. Both are very strong and if you are looking for performances then both bring it, but the words they have to deliver are actually hurting them while also giving them the scene – too much of the dialogue does not ring true. And it is a shame, because this is a very professionally made film, with a good pace, a serious heart, good cinematography, sound and choice of music – but it is all just too earnest across all aspects, which again hurts it
As it is the second film as writer/director for Jordan Bayne, it certainly shows ambition and promise, however it also shows opportunities for improvement.