Sea Fever (Neasa Hardiman, Ireland/Sweden/Belgium/UK) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman

You learn something new every day: for instance, I didn’t know that redheads were considered bad luck on the open seas, hence the chilly reception for bookish ginger Siobhán (Hermione Corfield) aboard the trawler that’s hosting her solo marine-biological expedition. (“You need to get your hands dirty,” says a supervisor, foreshadowing plenty of imagery of smeared and blood-stained digits.) Her initiative involves looking for “anomalies,” and the ocean gods oblige in near-record time,  dispatching a massive, glowing monstrosity to glom onto the ship’s hull and catalyze a crisis whose particulars are derivative of pretty much every doomed-expedition thriller ever made. Something gets loose below decks, and it’s just a matter of figuring out which of the crew members are going to succumb, and in what order.

In lieu of narrative or thematic originality, director Neasa Hardiman strives to impart a sense of realism, eschewing excessive special effects for what are likely conjoined artistic and economic reasons and amping up the intensity (and volume) of the interplay of her sturdy, brogue-equipped ensemble (including Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen as the ship’s terse proprietors). Not necessarily a bad idea, but as every supporting character feels more or less equally expendable, it’s hard to get too invested in the omnipresent threat to life and limb. For a movie like this to work, it requires a compelling central presence to root for, and while Corfield projects ample, level-headed intelligence, there’s just not enough going on with Siobhán’s character to draw us all the way in. Instead, Sea Fever just sort of watchably bobs along, leaving very little in its wake.