The Almond and the Seahorse

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

The Almond and the Seahorse
dir Celyn Jones, Tom Stern
scr Celyn Jones, Kaite O'Reilly
prd Andy Evans, Sean Marley, Alex Ashworth, Alison Brister
with Rebel Wilson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Trine Dyrholm, Celyn Jones, Meera Syal, Alice Lowe, Ruth Madeley, Patrick Elue, Martha Last, Alyson Marks, Rachel Adedeji, Maxim Grigorovich
release US 16.Dec.22,
UK 10.May.24
22/UK 1h36

gainsbourg dyrholm syal

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jones and wilson
With a thoughtful, evocative tone, this drama explores the repercussions of brain trauma for both victims and their loved ones. Based on Kaite O'Reilly's play, there's a slightly heightened tone to the material, but the issues are complex and very personal, which makes the film involving. While there is some lightness in the filmmakers' approach, the topic is very dark, addressed with honesty by the cast and crew.
Using her warm sense of humour, archaeologist Sarah (Wilson) patiently cares for her loving, forgetful husband Joe (Jones), whose encroaching amnesia followed a benign tumour. Meanwhile, architect Toni (Gainsbourg) struggles with her partner Gwen (Dyrholm), who lost her identity and memory after a car accident 15 years ago and has taken a turn for the worse. Sarah and Toni still love their partners, and they all cross paths while under the treatment of Dr Falmer (Syal), who offers hope but is also brutally honest. And the connection between Sarah and Toni catches them by surprise.
The title refers to the shapes of the amygdala and the hippocampus, sections of the brain that create new memories and emotions. Dr Falmer explains how these are scrambled after a severe trauma, often creating an entirely new personality in the process. And the film knowingly portrays the realities for both the injured and their loved ones, especially how cruel treatment from strangers makes it even worse.

Performances from the four central actors are excellent, packed with sensitive details that add intense emotions. Even though Sarah has a sparky sense of humour, this is a strikingly serious role for Wilson, who skilfully brings out Sarah's deeper thoughts. Her interaction with the terrific Jones is beautifully played with strongly textured chemistry. Gainsbourg and Dyrholm have more downbeat roles, but also add badly needed lighter touches. A sequence between Jones and Dyrholm is particularly powerful.

Because brain trauma isn't reversible, the only hope in this narrative is for those who aren't injured. They long for their partners to return to them, but may only find peace in moving forward, as painful as that may be. As a result, the film begins to feel somewhat wistful and sad. Where the story goes recognises this in a remarkably unsentimentalised way, leading to a complex conclusion that has a lot to say about the resilience we all have to cope with what life throws at us.

cert 15 themes, language 6.May.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall