In cinemas 12/18
Director: Tupaq Felber
Cast: Jon Foster, Robyn Isaac, Jamie Zubairi, Simon Meacock
Four friends, bonded over the years by tenuous careers in acting, hire a barge for a few nights’ break in the sleepy backwaters of Southern England. Conversations flow freely, expletives uncensored. It is this matey banter, transgressed by Red (Robyn Isaac) and Jon (Jon Foster) eventually snapping and displaying vulnerability, which punctuates this mindful and cinematic film.
With nothing to do but navigate tranquil canals and manage locks, the group stock up on booze and contemplate the water and sky and the state of their lives in middle-age. Other than that, little happens and yet much is implied.
The only woman in the party, Red, although very feminine in that boho, chaotic way, fits easily with the mates, mildly cursing and heavily chain smoking as she knocks back the booze. She parachutes in for one night, creating a party atmosphere that dissipates when she leaves. Like the guys, she is easy-going but compounded by personal troubles that bubble to the surface. Interestingly, Red’s presence is at once a smooth fit but brings a heightened emotionality to the kindly blokes who pat each other on the back, uttering monosyllables when the going gets tough. Refreshingly, there is nothing sexual or sexist, just as there are no pointed signifiers to Zooby (Jamie Zubairi) who is unassumingly gay. Those cloying markers which can weigh down a narrative are irrelevant in Tides. All the characters are reminiscent of someone we might know. Simon (Simon Meacock) is a gentle, roadie character, found at festivals. Jon is that aging boy, mostly fun sometimes grumpy, that populates off-centre places.
The viewer is kept involved although, at times, the conversation tends to be too sparse; emotions insufficiently explored, noticeable when Red leaves and the men, left alone, communicate in short bursts and resorting to lengthy silences. This is a minor flaw and reflective of part of everyday chatter and communication which is unscripted and often self-conscious. The small inserts from others, a guy arguing into his mobile, the couple out walking, are little stagy too, but overall the improvisation feels very natural, almost documentary.
The cinematography is mesmerising, aided by black and white film stock and a peaceful location. The pace is slow, as slow as the canal which doesn’t have an apparent tide. All this is curiously at odds with the director’s career in commercials, suggesting an artist at heart who makes a living, which is indeed the case for the director, Tupaq Felber.
On Demand via BFI Player and Chilli Cinema