Directed by Michael Turnbull
Starring Hester Ruoff & Ross Newell
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
When the lewd and raw intimacy of a sex chat line is juxtaposed with the ferocious crashing of waves on the British coastline, you know some thought has gone into telling this story. Short film The Sea Monsters Funeral, written and directed by Michael Turnbull, is an emotionally evocative piece about the coping of loss, in all its heartbreaking glory, as well as the tenuous and unlikely relationships that can emerge which sweep us in a new direction.
Working as a sex chat operator, Deloris (Hester Ruoff) finds her self intrinsically linked to grieving father Murray (Ross Newell), who has lost his grip on reality since the passing of his daughter. The titular Sea Monsters are whom he blames for the tragedy, and Deloris must help Murray seek revenge and closure.
It's an abstract concept in some ways, and there are indeed moments of supernatural storytelling, but the bulk of Turnbull's short film is levelled squarely at the drama genre. The story and characters are thoughtfully created, containing very little innocuous sentiment, and instead delivering large quantities of pathos which is hugely affecting. Some moments are harrowing to watch, such as Murray going ape shit in a hotel room, whilst others are just tragic. What's clear, though, is that Turnbull knows how to tell a gripping yarn that, whilst tender, does not shy away from the painful core that is the foundation of the story.
Ruoff is superb to watch, injecting some of the best black comedy moments during the movie, as well as coping masterfully with the dramatic scenes. Newell, likewise, is a brilliant on screen presence, tackling what could have been a rather shambolic portrayal of grief with physical perfection, rendering a character that is heartbroken, obsessed, emboldened and deeply troubled.
The use of slow motion was a little heavy handed given the shorter run time of the film, but that doesn't take away from the sequences where the technique was used rather effectively. A birthday party scene was a particular favourite, as was the aforementioned wave crashing sequence which introduced the movie. There was also some beautiful cinematography from Joseph Cook, who captured the arresting isolation of the seaside with the chaotic turbulence of the story remarkably well.
An outstanding dramatic piece with heartfelt themes, The Sea Monsters Funeral is a painful but spectacular watch, a unique and sensitive approach to a most fundamental human crisis.