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TIDES: A dreary mockumentary canal boat holiday drama
December 6, 2018
A group of four friends get together on a narrow boat holiday, boozily cruising the South East countryside’s ducts and locks, where over the course boundaries come down to reveal their middle-age discontent. This in nutshell is the premise of Tides, directed by newbie English/ Peruvian director Tupaq Felber. Shot in black and white, in a uber realistic, conversational manner with the English countryside providing a pretty back drop to a rather dreary and longwinded mockumentary styled drama.
The foursome, is comprised of Jon (Jon Foster), Red (Robyn Isaac), Zooby (Jamie Zubari) and Simon (Simon Meacock). I’m assuming they are playing a version of their actual selves, all now approaching middle age, seemingly to have known each other since their 20s. Red spends only one evening, as she has to shoot back to London for a wedding, whilst the others continue their cruise down the canal waters; drinking, pot-smoking, eating, lazing about with Jon at the helms of the steering while. As the days unravel, we come to various rather mundane revelations, Simon is a jobbing actor with a major role in a TV drama, Zooby hasn’t met Mr. Right yet, Red is thinking of settling down with a man no one approves of to the self-absorbed Jon is sad after the loss of his father.
Felber keeps his directorial style as more of an observation, a static camera placed at a distance recording events for from afar, with rare close-ups. This works at first, making the set-up feel hyperrealistic with an element of improvisation. Yet as the holiday progresses this becomes the film’s detriment; once the novelty of an authentic interpretation wears off and coupled with its too-hard-to-read subtleness and a snail-paced narrative, it completely fails to muster any further intrigue.
The side-effect of wanting to give an accurate face-value illustration it that it only scantily explores each of the character’s individual story, which makes it even further surprising to hear that the script was written by the four protagonists. Felber seems to have chosen people with the most mundane temperaments. There is an element to their communication that feels quite awkward, which they all do their best to over compensate with over-the-top childish-enthusiasm and over-familiarity. Perhaps this is the intentional and all four of them pull this dynamic off very well, but nevertheless its makes for a very cringeworthy watch.
It is Red with her brief appearance that proves most amusing. Her interactions with each one of them, proves potent and exciting. Her silly, I’m-crazy-me buoyancy drags out the other three from their insular man caves. And expectedly, once she departs the film struggles to regain any momentum. Even in final scenes, where in his drunken haziness and incessant talking, Jon lets on about the loss of his father, but by that point the boredom has fully kicked in that the scene completely fails to garner any sentiment.
Nevertheless, Tides does hint to Felber’s distinctive directorial talents, his experimentation with this filming style is commendable, especially in his ability to visually convey deeper meaning in everyday scenes and connections. Paul O’Callaghan’s black and white photography works in parts, such as the tranquil moments of sunlight creeping through the fauna, but as a whole this aesthetic decision feels pointless and diminishes the full effects of the countryside’s beauty. Furthermore, as Felber seemingly goes to painstaking efforts to showcase true-to-life depictions as a consequence his films lacks everywhere else; a sluggish narrative and an unrelatable bunch of characters, who are not the most interesting lot to begin with.
Tides is released on the 7th December 2018.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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