Review: Mara: The Seal Wife

Written and directed by Uisdean Murray, after giving birth to their child on a beach during the dead of night Sine runs into the darkness leaving her husband Magnus in a state of anguish. Starring: Kevin Kelly, Sarah Pritchard, Cailean Collier and Daibhidh Walker.

One thing that can be said without a doubt is that for a stunning visual you could never go wrong by filming in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It’s the type of location that adds an immense production value, immediately enriching the aesthetic and atmosphere of any film. Uisdean Murray and cinematographer Jason Weidner take full advantage of its benefits, it holds a great texture and captures the vastness, beauty and dangers of nature. It also feeds nicely into a more old-fashioned feel, which goes hand in hand with exploring a folktale, harking back to a simpler time. The strength of its visual is most clear by how the film holds itself with the runtime being slightly lengthy for a short but not feeling long because the sweeping visuals keep you locked in.

However, the story at hand doesn’t quite match that strength. It’s a lovely change of pace to see a story bathed in imaginative and rich history of Irish culture but the pacing sets things off on awkward footing. The opening throws you in at the deep end before retracing its steps, which is not the smoothest of transitions, and it would have been nice to have a tiny bit more time to get itself settled. It’s a sweet story but the way it presents itself is fairly simple and there was room to give more detail to the relationship and her unusual heritage. There’s the beginnings of emotion but not enough happens to get to know these characters well enough, to be able to connect with them for a bigger impact. On a side note, if the story does feel familiar, you may have seen it previously explored in Tom Moore’s Song of the Sea.

Kevin Kelly leads the charge with a classic stoic, protector style character, he holds a strong presence and clearly portrays his character’s love and despair. Sarah Pritchard provides innocence and curiosity, slowly evolving into a longing for home mixed with a touch of desperation. The two have a chemistry but it’s not overwhelming, the time they share feels fairly typical and there isn’t a lot to separate it from other romances. It feels as though the balance between the storytelling and its atmospheric nature aren’t quite hitting the right note, with the weight falling more on the latter.

Mara: The Seal Wife mixes a spectacular visual with a romantic folktale. Its superb setting creates a strong atmosphere, embracing the rich cultural history of its story. It feels as though we didn’t get to see too much of the relationship at the heart of the story before it’s drawn into the drama, preventing the emotion from making a deeper connection. It’s a great concept and is shot extremely well but needed to expand on its story more to fulfil its potential.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Showing at FirstGlance Film Festival on 14 May – For more information click here

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