Seagrass

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In the gripping character study “Seagrass,” written by Meredith Hama-Brown, Carol (Sarah Gadon) wonders, “Do you need a reason to be unhappy?” The narrative explores how grief frequently leads to other suppressed feelings and perhaps even tragedies. That question raises an interesting point about how depression may often be like a snake eating its tail: we feel as though we must have a reason for our unhappiness and that something is wrong with us when our lives, which ought to fulfill us, fall short of our expectations. These intricate emotional problems are frequently brought up in Hama-Brown’s writing, which deftly sketches characters that are so realistic that it’s simple to recognize ourselves in them.

The exercise that breaks Steve (Luke Roberts) occurs at a couples retreat that he’s attending with his wife Judith (Ally Maki) and daughters Stephanie (Nyha Huang Breitkreuz) and Emmy (Remy Marthaller). Recently, Judith lost her mother, and the sadness has completely destroyed her marriage. In one amazing scene, a visibly disturbed Steve (Luke Roberts) is pushed to share his feelings during a group session and he yells back, “I don’t have any f*cking words, OK?!?!!” The strength of Hama-Brown’s film is how deftly it captures that feeling that emotion can’t always be expressed through language.

Although it appears like Steve is only unwillingly attending, there are early indications that this endeavor was Judith’s idea, and they are both actively working to patch up damaged relationships. The younger Emmy appears more fearful and is captivated by the notion that communication with the other side can be established through a nearby cave, while the adolescent Stephanie befriends girls her own age. Perhaps she will get to see her grandmother again.

Don’t worry, “Seagrass” isn’t your typical ghost story, yet it is on an emotional level. It has to do with the consequences of the choices we make as adults about our partners and families.

The theme is the desire to know more about people we are no longer able to learn about; Judith laments this every time her new acquaintances Pat (Chris Pang) and Carol enquire about her mother and she is unable to provide an answer. Grief is more than just losing someone; it’s also regretting all the unspoken conversations we had with them.

Judith and Steve begin to emotionally break apart in a way that puts their entire family in jeopardy as they continue through counseling that seems to be tearing them apart. Because they exemplify a false ideal—the “If they can do it, then so can we” mindset that frequently stifles real growth—Pat and Carol become a risky comparison.

The video by Hama-Brown deftly grasps how people can draw parallels between suffering and grief, frequently oversimplifying and diminishing both in ways that can turn tragic.

A lot of “Seagrass” plays out like a slow-burn thriller because of this sense of impending disaster. It’s one of those classic tales of grownups who get so engrossed in their own foolishness that their kids suffer, sometimes quite literally. The scene where Emmy carefully walks across a pool to a purple ball that she has been eyeing feels both joyful and little terrifying at the same time, reminiscent of a scenario from childhood. This is because the foreboding is so pervasive.

Not that it’s hard to blame Hama-Brown for wanting to spend time with the kind of carefree joy that exists before people grow up and start asking themselves why they’re unhappy—Breitkreuz and Marthaller are both naturally wonderful—but Hama-Brown has a tendency to linger a little too long in scenes, particularly ones where the children are just regular kids.

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