This is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Its colour palette, location and aesthetic are exquisite. It is also enigmatic, to the point of being unsatisfying. We see a small, austere, island community of women and boys. The women are pale eyebrowed, dressed in colours of skin and earth. The boys are prepubescent, unsmiling. They live in bare, white houses amongst black sand, rock and crashing waves. There is little dialogue and no context for this odd world.
Nicholas is dark haired and, in a world of browns and greys, he is the only in red. Diving under the waves, he sees a body, and this starts him on a journey of questioning his world. His mother is impassive, as are all the women, and we get a sense of a ritual, that they are waiting for something. There is no softness in their world, the only grace is under the waves where there is beauty and flow and colour.
There are some moments in this film that are sublime. The starfish motif – under the sea, theatre lights reflected in an eye, the women on the rocks, the ferris wheel – water dripping and pooling, the ferocity of the waves, air bubbling through water. All blur the boundary between land and sea, between people and sea creatures, between love and compassion.
It’s probably best not to know too much about what this film’s about. It becomes apparent after a while, although the exact nature of what is happening, the logic behind this very different world is never resolved. There is one misstep where too much is revealed – you’ll recognise it. In our cinema, it was the moment in this very serious film when the audience laughed. Never a great sign.
Bechdel test – fail