This Is The Sea Review

Image for This Is The Sea


If nothing else this ambitious and engaging drama can claim the dubious honour of being the first feature to have been filmed in Belfast since the partial resurgence of the troubles.

With such a city as its backdrop, serious issues are inevitably tackled but This Is The Sea is not just a political platform - religion, love and betrayal are all given an equal airing.

Hazel Stokes (Morton) leads a sheltered life living at home with her parents in rural Northern Ireland. As members of the fiercely Protestant Plymouth Brethren, the only social gatherings they attend are weekly prayer meetings. But that all changes when a long-time friend of the family, Old Man Jacobs (Harris), persuades her protective parents to allow her to accompany him to an agricultural show in Belfast.

There she meets the cool (and very Catholic) Malachy (McDade) and his brother Padhar (John Lynch). Soon Hazel is enjoying secret rendezvous with Malachy and living it up in a swinging Belfast nightclub. As their love attempts to bloom under the weight of the Brethren, Padhar has troubles of his own with IRA unit-leader Rohan (Gabriel Byrne).

Writer/director McGuckian has tried to address everyone's point of view but with any film set in a place where religion and politics are such emotive issues, it is almost impossible to appear unbiased. It is also apparent from the full-to-the-brim melting pot of subjects that there is just too much going on for just one film and so every thread suffers because of it. On the plus side, however, Irish culture is so affectionately embraced - in the cinematography and the soundtrack - that if you look hard enough you can ignore the soapboxes and enjoy the love story.