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The Sea


The Sea


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The acidic Shakespearean family drama The Sea can't be faulted for lack of ambition. It can, however, be faulted for a fatal lack of heart. Drawing freely from King Lear, Hamlet, and The Celebration, but lacking an iota of their humanity, the film centers on the members of an extended Icelandic family, who expect the worst from each other and are seldom disappointed. They're ruled by wealthy fishing magnate Gunnar Eyjólfsson, who lords over his village and never lets his children forget the profound debt they owe him. With his health failing and modern technology threatening to make his business obsolete, the tyrant calls together the members of his family, who eye each other with well-earned suspicion, lust eagerly for their patriarch's money, and still resent their father for marrying their dead mother's sister. Director Baltasar Kormákur's follow-up to 101 Reykjavik, The Sea boasts a stark, icy blue-and-white palette that mirrors the harsh emotions and bleak worldviews of its unlikable characters. Visually elegant but dramatically and emotionally inert, the film establishes a vast web of secrets, lies, and betrayals in its first half, then explodes into violence and destruction during its climax. Some sly, understated comedy involving a wandering ram provides a needed hint of levity, but a comic-relief grandmother with a mouth like a sailor and a cutting remark for every occasion (if The Sea were an American comedy, she'd rap, smoke pot, or do both) proves less successful. A slouchy, video-obsessed grandson, meanwhile, offers depressing proof that the family's legacy of viciousness and self-interest will live on. The Sea's spiteful schemers put up with intolerable company and constant cruelty because they believe that money is at stake. Audiences, however, have no such enticement for spending time with these loathsome creatures. In The Sea, the ties that bind strangle, and death starts to look like a welcome reprieve from a callous world.