A group of four friends get together on a narrow boat holiday, boozily cruising the South East ducts and locks, where over the course their guard comes down to reveal their personal discontent. This in nutshell is the premise of Tides, directed by newbie English/ Peruvian director Tupaq Felber. Shot in black and white, in an 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 wheel. Simon is a jobbing actor with a major role in a TV drama, Zooby hasn’t met Mr. Right, Red is thinking of settling down with a man no one approves of and the self-absorbed media-type Jon who depressed after the loss of his father.
Felber keeps his directorial style as an observation, a static camera placed at a distance recording events from afar, with the rare close-up. This all works at first, making the set-up feel hyperrealistic, yet as the holiday progresses it becomes the film’s detriment. Once the novelty of this authentic looking set-up wears off and coupled with a too-hard-to-read subtleness and a snail-paced narrative, it completely fails to muster any intrigue.
The side-effect of this accurate illustration it that it only scantily explores each of the character’s motives, which makes it truly surprising to hear that the script was written by the four of them. Felber seems to have chosen people with the most mundane of temperaments. There is an element to their communication that feels quite awkward, which is then over compensated with over-the-top childish-enthusiasm and over-familiarity. Perhaps intentional and once again ‘authentic', but nevertheless its cringeworthy to watch.
It is Red's brief appearance that proves most amusing. 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 scene, where through his drunken haziness and incessant talking Jon reveals coming to terms with the loss of his father, the most anti-climactic revelation ever and by that point we couldn't care less.
Nevertheless, Tides does hint to Felber’s directorial talents, his experimentation with this filming style is commendable, his ability to 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 seeping through, but as a whole it feels pointless and diminishes the full effects of the countryside's beauty. As Felber goes to painstaking efforts to record a true-to-life depiction as a consequence his films lacks everywhere else; a sluggish narrative and a bunch of unrelatable characters, who are not the most interesting people to begin with.
Tides is released on the 7th December 2018.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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