FILM REVIEW: THE SEA IS ALL I KNOW with MELISSA LEO by DARREN CHEERS
Sometimes its so easy to see why some actresses win Oscars and others don`t, and Melissa Leo demonstrates in the short movie, The Sea Is All I Know, gloriously why she won her Oscar last year for The Fighter. What is particularly superb from her performance is her ability to powerfully portray a woman (Sara) who is forced to face a crisis of faith in all that she believes in, with subtle nuances and not in a labored dramatic style. And to the credit of the strength of her co-stars, Peter Gerety as her estranged husband Sonny and her terminally ill daughter Kelly Hutchinson, they are never overshadowed by her. In fact, this is the film`s greatest achievement; the wonderful naturalistic manner of the acting, despite dealing with such dramatic subject matter. Thus praise has to be attributed to the director Jordan Bayne for accomplishing this by employing the use of prolonged camera closeups so the audience can witness refined facial expressions and tones that illustrate the characters inner turmoil, without ever being contrived.
Bayne brilliantly juxtapositions the actors dialogue with symbolism. The sea, as suggested by the title, is of huge significance. The film commences on the sea, with Sonny stood solitary in his boat which suggests a sense of liberation, abandonment and ultimately isolation. Also, water is where all life commences in the womb surrounded in a sack of the substance. Then immediately we witness the arrival of the daughter in an incapacitated state, imprisoned in a wheelchair, thus illustrating the antithesis of abandonment and isolation; the dependence on others. The daughter, a fully grown woman, has been rendered in a juvenile state by requiring such things as diapers snuggling up to her mothers breast, and childish songs from her father. Then we see Sonny back in the freedom of his boat fishing, but even this becomes a symbolic scene of the denial of freedom, as he incarcerates the fish, and their only means of liberation is death its. This suggests the fate of the suffering daughter.
Even before the first words of doubt in Christianity are uttered, a sense of crisis of faith has already engulfed the audience`s mind. As soon as we start to feel this, Sonny openly condemns God for his suffering. A symbolic imagine of Jesus walking on water over looking his disciples in a boat on the lake of Galilee as a stained glass window, echoes the importance of Christian faith to this family and how they now feel forsaken. In total isolation, in church Sara endeavours to reason with God, but she know`s there will be no answer. Though the parents seem to denounce God and Jesus with the smashing of Christ`s statue, and why he would take their daughter from them, they still adhere to its conventions with the religious last rights and Sara significantly placing her golden cross upon her neck. But by smashing moral confines they then physically consummate their love by having sex. Therefore, ultimately this is not a film about falling out of love with God but an estranged family rediscovering love for each other. By taking fate into their own hands, and committing the ultimate sacrifice: the mercy killing of their own terminally ill daughter, they are reunited together and transcend the moral judgement that conventional religious dogma would unfairly bestow upon them. In fact the death scene has the feeling of being the last supper, but not the sense of betrayal, but of celebration. As Jesus is resurrected from the grave, there is the renaissance of love between Sara and Sonny. From death their is a rebirth and the film concludes with the imagery of the sea again.
This short movie superbly tackles contentious moral issues with skillful acting and direction. Though from the outset it may appear somewhat melancholy, the movie`s exploration of feelings and faith and then the ability to take responsibility transcend it from bleakness to a commemoration of the human experience, one free of judgement and condemnation. Thoroughly recommended and thought provoking, this is a film that portrays a familiar subject with a personable and unique perspective.
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