Ely Dagher's The Sea Ahead is a quiet masterpiece. It stars the powerful Manal Issa as a woman who returns to her native Beirut after being in France. It's a bittersweet re-entry for Jana (Issa's character) as she returns to live with her parents and reconnects with an old flame yet carries the weight of something that happened to her while away. Or is it the city of her childhood which is making her so depressed?
Betraying a much more seasoned filmmaker, Dagher powerfully never really gives that insight away, though we imagine what happened and still, we as the audience remain completely surprised by Jana's final reaction. What is also hard to believe is that this is the Lebanese filmmaker's first feature, but then his short film Waves '98 did take Cannes by storm in 2015, tackling the themes of personal identity as overlaid with cultural identity -- and more specifically identifying with the city where we live.
We wrote about The Sea Ahead here, and called it "the greatest film you may never get to watch" as the pandemic seemed to take away the film's ability to travel to audiences, apart from participating in El Gouna FF and at Red Sea IFF in 2021. Or maybe it was the Lebanese civil and political crisis overtaking the country and throwing everything artistic into a void that stopped it from traveling. Whatever the reason, or reasons, it is great to see the film finally getting around and on Netflix MENA no less!
For more info and to stream the film, check out your local Netflix subscription.