The Green Sea is an uneasy dreamscape of trauma and redemption; a turtle-centric tale that doesn’t entirely miss the mark.
While it probably won’t be winning any Oscars just yet, Randall Plunkett’s feature length film certainly has it strengths. Set in the whimsical wilds of rural Ireland, The Green Sea discusses life, death, and the space in between in an almost-beautiful depiction of the life of a washed-up musician.
So, we have Simone (Katherine Isabelle), an alcohol dependent rock-star-has-been, living amongst the remnants of a life she managed to destroy, all whilst attempting to write the sequel to her previous best seller. Then we have the ‘the kid’ (Hazel Doupe), the protagonist of her book that appears to her in the form of a no-name teenager who (spoiler) helps her get her life together. It’s not the most original story line, but it works with the help of brilliant character delivery which is largely shouldered by the two leads.
Katherine Isabelle’s performance is excellent. She takes a role that, on paper, could be dangerously predisposed to cliché, and delivers with a raw vulnerability that leaves you utterly convinced of her down-and-out musician persona (with minimal help from a skull-heavy wardrobe and seriously overzealous eye liner). Doupe’s portal of ‘The Kid’ is equally brilliant: measured, mysterious, yet remarkably ordinary, Doupe’s character is the bedrock of the plot line and is handled with careful consideration and expert control. Dermot Ward gives an all too brief, but brilliant performance as Justin (the guy from the garage): he’s utterly convincing and so endearing, and his sweetness breaks your heart. Why haven’t we seen more of him?
It is not the performance of The Green Sea’s cast that falls slightly short, but the structure and wider direction, that seem dependant on under-developed metaphors that never quite land. The chapter structure gives the whole piece a kind of home-made feeling. The film is almost episodic, interspersed with title pages that introduce the chapters, each complete with Scorsese-red lettering that leaves the impression of watching an old horror movie, and not a good one. The intermittent dreamscapes of other children who, like ‘the kid’, are sent to help people straighten their lives out, have serious The Lovely Bones vibes, all the feelings of directionless disorientation but without the tragic impact. This is further served by their apparent mentor, who is what I imagine you’d get if John Lennon had a baby with The Child Catcher and had him as the front man of a Madness tribute band.
The rugged coastline of these dream-like episodes is effective and does well to reflect the unforgiving terrain of Katherine’s existence and the apparent hope of redemption, which seems to be the point of the film. However, the delivery is uneven and confusing in a bid to be artful. And then there’s the turtles. The turtle is a symbol the plot repeatedly engages with, and it’s explained at the end to be due to the mission of ‘the kid’ and it’s likeness to the lives of hatchling turtles who make their own way to the sea. Confused? So was I. I’m sure this turtle metaphor has something to it: it just needs more development to have the impact it deserves.
At the end of the day, it’s not all bad. The film in itself is an easy enough watch and the characters are engaging and beautifully human. Well, maybe not John Lennon The Child Catcher: he really put me on edge. But give it a watch, see what you think: maybe you’ll understand the turtles.
The Green Sea is now available to watch on VOD in the UK and Ireland.