Nobly acted and always reaching for a dreamlike resonance, The Sea is an adaptation of John Banville’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel – he also wrote the screenplay. When recently widowed art historian (Ciarán Hinds) travels back to the beach where he summered as a child in the 1950s, he remembers something terrible that happened, but was never spoken of. First-time director Stephen Brown is good at transmitting that feeling of being muffled against the sea-breeze, but as his story takes more seriously to its theme – that all memories are forever on the cusp of slipping away – things congeal into bleached-out flashbacks. Why must “memory” in film always be contained in such a clichéd trick? Doesn’t memory in fact flood in all sorts of ways into every present moment?
This being Banville there is an air of Proust and Beckett, and a tremendous floating ominousness, but the film is without fire. Charlotte Rampling pops up as a guesthouse landlady, sensational in a Biba headscarf, standing perfectly still in that way of hers that makes tensions bounce around at the very sight of her.