Jan 16, 2024
Kellie Shirley, Albey Brookes, Michael Seaman
It’s not often that a short film is made with enough technical skill to rival the highest-level productions, but Ocean Brew manages to do just that. Centering around Joe (a pub-owner who used to be a diver), this comedy tells an episodic, if slightly muddled, tale of an inn’s progressing complications and humorous misfortunes. What’s slightly disappointing is that the story is not as polished as the technique implemented to tell it.
Formally, the piece is as slick and professional as can be. It’s clear that a large group of professionals came together to carefully construct this film’s look and sound, all operating at the top of their game – from lighting and sound to the editing and musical cues, its aesthetic feels clean. Crisply shot on a series of stunning anamorphic prime lenses, there’s not much to complain about when it comes to the camera department; you can see every penny in every frame. The sound is equally sweet, as clear as any Hollywood feature with design that’s wonderfully nuanced. Specific and considered through other influences, present on screen is also the impact of other filmmakers...
It quickly becomes apparent that Ocean Brew was inspired by the work of Edgar Wright, particularly editorially. This mode of montage, comedic cutting, and expressive audio transitions is a style frequently imitated and often tiresome; however, director Harry Guest is successful at utilising the approach to accentuate production value. Interestingly, it illuminates different parts that inform the greater whole – one notices, for instance, how the cutting correlates to the music; and then, in turn, how great the score is! As if to guide the viewer’s eyes and ears to the work of a talented crew, the film makes its strengths clear as day.
Unfortunately, the narrative lacks thematic and structural cohesion. Whilst one can tell that the script was carefully arranged and scrutinised to be as succinct as possible, there is something disjointed in its messaging. The opening moments effectively establish a motif of diving, but it’s not clear what kind of relationship the character now has with this past activity; so, the fact that the ending is tied so tightly to, at most, a suggestion creates an issue: any intended catharsis is absent from the moment and may leave the audience confused, appearing more as a kind of subtextual bookending. Meanwhile, Guest’s nicely orchestrated symphony of pub-related antics is amusing, yet there’s an inelegance in how disconnected it feels from the emotional core.
Despite story-related complaints, style and form make up for most shortcomings. As stated, it’s one of the more technically impressive shorts in recent memory, worth supporting because of just that. It’s always wonderful when work such as this demonstrates that a sizeable budget is not essential. Feeling like the most expensive production requires craft, skill, and a group of excited creatives coming together with the same goal: to use their area of expertise to contribute to the best of their ability. Ocean Brew is a more than admirable achievement in the world of short filmmaking.