BY MICHAEL LYONS
Think about a movie that is non-stop action: explosions, guns blazing, with a trademark wisecracking, beefcake, invariably white hetero leading man—I guess what I’m saying is, think of Age of Ultron. Then think of a film that is the exact opposite of that, one that is so subtle, where so little happens it’s difficult to say what you just saw. In the best way possible, Seashore is this film.
I should preface this review by saying that I love a good boring movie, by which I mean my choice of film sits at the latter end of the spectrum mentioned above, a film that can make a lot happen with very little action. Life, after all, is just a lot of staring blankly and feeling shitty about stuff.
Seashore is a Brazilian film about Martin and Tomaz, two young men nearing adulthood. They return to the hometown of Martin’s estranged grandfather and then, for the first three-quarters of the movie, very little happens. There’s a tension between the two as they undertake this journey, and it’s unclear why they are on it. Martin (the brooding Mateus Almada) must confront his relationship with his family’s past. Tomaz (played by the frighteningly pretty Maurício Barcellos) admits he shouldn’t even be there with his friend, but as the pieces slowly and quietly fall into place, all becomes clear.
To say Seashore is a slow burn of a film is an understatement. The feature hands out little tidbits, glimpses of the character’s lives and motivations, jealously. Between these few moments, the characters muddle through friendships, they drink, they wander around town. Life is presented as a wasteland of mundane, melancholy nothingness with the rare moment of warmth and connection. The tension in the audience was palpable as the film continued, and at the climatic moment it felt like a tightly wound spring had uncoiled. This wasn’t to the taste of all, as we had a few walkouts—hilariously, about 90 percent in, just before the film took a gay turn. The main criticism I heard as the audience filtered out, and indeed from my film companion, was that the film was too slow.
To me, however, this is Seashore’s ultimate success; aside from exquisite cinematography, the film’s dynamics build so slowly, almost tortuously, that there’s a real sense of accomplishment in the end. It’s like watching a tide come in inch by inch. Even though it’s agonizingly slow, there’s something raw and powerful about it, and it feels wonderful to let it simply wash over you.
Seashore played May 30, 2015, at the Inside Out Film Festival in Toronto.
Michael Lyons (@queer_mikey) is a queer-identified writer, journalist, and game maker. He writes for DailyXtra.com, where he and a colleague pen History Boys, a bi-monthly column on lesser-known LGBT history. He has a story coming out in an upcoming anthology titled Rad Women and the Things They Did. He is also working on his first video game, an episode of a popular LGBT-positive dating sim for young people.