‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ Review: Rebel Wilson and Charlotte Gainsbourg in a Stubbornly Lifeless Drama


The plasticity of reminiscence is a well-known dramatic topic, the stuff of sci-fi tentpoles (Total Recall), indie thrillers (Memento) and style hybrids (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). On a extra on a regular basis stage, that neural malleability suggests one thing fragile and susceptible. For the 2 {couples} on the middle of The Almond and the Seahorse, each affected by traumatic mind damage, there’s nothing theoretical about being caught in a damaged reminiscence loop — it’s a tragic and draining actuality. How do you keep a relationship with somebody whose reminiscence of your life collectively is fractured, erratic, deteriorating? That’s the painful problem dealing with Sarah and Toni, characters performed, respectively, by Rebel Wilson and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Apparently her first non-comedic big-screen function was life-changing for Wilson — a paradox on condition that the drama onscreen involves life solely in matches and begins. An adaptation of Kaite O’Reilly’s play by Celyn Jones and the playwright, the movie unfolds episodically, and it typically seems like a dramatized lesson on BTI — a handsomely shot lesson, to make sure; the DP is Tom Stern, the completed cinematographer and frequent collaborator of Clint Eastwood. Stern directed the film as properly, together with Jones, who additionally performs one of many central characters. There are a couple of placing pictures — the characteristic is about and was shot within the Liverpool/Merseyside space of England — and the fascinating faces of Gainsbourg, Wilson and Trine Dyrholm are captured in a loving mild. The story, although, feels instructed somewhat than explored, holding all of the characters at arm’s size for a lot of the working time.

The Almond and the Seahorse

The Bottom Line

Less than memorable.

Release date: Friday, Dec. 16
Cast: Rebel Wilson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Trine Dyrholm, Celyn Jones, Meera Syal, Alice Lowe
Directors: Celyn Jones, Tom Stern
Screenwriters: Celyn Jones, Kaite O’Reilly; based mostly on the play by Kaite O’Reilly

1 hour 36 minutes

The movie’s title, as Wilson’s Sarah explains, refers back to the amygdala and the hippocampus, components of the mind essential to creating and retaining reminiscences. Her husband, Joe (Jones), and Toni’s spouse, Gwen (Dyrholm), every undergo from a debilitating type of amnesia, his the results of surgical procedure and hers attributable to a automobile accident. They don’t know one another, and it isn’t till greater than midway via the film that their spouses meet, at a neighborhood hospital specializing in TBI. (Whether it’s inexpensive to any Brit via the NHS isn’t clear, however the uncrowded and well-appointed facility may appear to be some type of dream to an American viewer.)

Treating sufferers and withstanding the ire and frustration of their vital others, the top of the hospital, Dr. Falmer (Meera Syal), gives such stilted observations as “This silent epidemic isn’t going anywhere” and such ungrammatical ones as “No brain is the same.” Joe and Gwen are returning to her take care of a couple of days of remark; their wives have every reached a disaster level in making an attempt to navigate a worsening sense of dislocation, requiring fixed reorientation to fill in agonizing gaps in what ought to be a shared historical past — in essence, beginning virtually from scratch time and again. Sarah tries a brand new, extra aggressive tack, one which includes a beeper and lists and a schedule and, for the viewers’s profit a minimum of as a lot as Joe’s, an audiotape explaining his scenario.

When we first see Sarah, she’s dancing and consuming alone, as if in single-person mode. Then she’s calling a assist line about Joe. Whatever he did for a residing earlier than he was injured, he’s now an unemployable overgrown baby, by turns playful and petulant, his clean cheer typically giving option to grown-up torment as he tries to kind out why his spouse appears to be like older than he remembers her to be.

Whether we consider it or not, the symbolism of Sarah’s work is obvious: She’s an archeologist who spends her days reconstructing human skeletons — piecing collectively fragments. Ditto for Toni, an architect who gave up her work constructing issues quickly after the crash 15 years earlier that upended her life with Gwen, a musician.

When Sarah and Toni meet, there’s a bracing terseness to their first change. From that welcome jolt, the connection jumps to an ungainly morning after after which a getting-to-know-you montage, full with walks on the seaside. But it’s a wintry seaside, evocatively lensed by Stern, and likewise the setting for the strongest second within the movie, when Gwen encounters one of many forged iron figures in an artwork set up (Antony Gormley’s Another Place). In Dyrholm’s wordless response, and the tenderness that she and Gainsbourg convey, the characteristic reaches depths it strains for elsewhere.

The second is undercut, although, by a music, a part of a rating by Gruff Rhys, of Super Furry Animals, that may be beautiful however too typically indulges in overt nudges towards lament or cheer (matching the brilliant interiors that manufacturing designer Gini Godwin brings to Joe and Sarah’s dwelling). The movie’s tone drifts, anchored in moments by the actors. As a hospital worker, Patrick Elue shares a quick, terrific scene with Dyrholm revolving round her cello, and Alice Lowe makes an impression as Sarah’s sensible, plainspoken sister-in-law; their give-and-take has a lived-in immediacy.

Wilson’s first display screen departure from broad-strokes comedy reveals a grounded presence; there’s little doubt that she may maintain her personal in different dramatic ventures. This one, although, for all its sympathy and hope, proceeds by such jagged leaps that it falls in need of the meant emotional influence. Perhaps these leaps are supposed to mirror the struggles of Joe and Gwen, however one thing is misplaced within the narrative gaps.


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