A moody and melancholic drama made at a leisurely pace that at times belies the underlying mournful drama, writer/director Ely Dagher’s beautifully made film The Sea Ahead makes great use of its Beirut backdrop, in presenting a city that is bleak, grey and very much in turmoil.
It is a sad and certainly challenging film, but then how could it not reflect all that has happened in Beirut if it weren’t reflective and troubled. All this is reflected in the film’s gloomy central character Jana (Manal Issa), who has arrived back in the country after several years living in France.
Leaving behind her place at an art school in Paris, she has returned to Beirut to the bemusement of her parents Wissam (Rabih El Zaher), and Mona (Yara Abou Haidar), who can’t understand why she has changed into a depressed and gloomy young woman.
Her underlying sense of displacement– she aimlessly wanders the family apartment, staring towards the harbour area (the film was made before the 2020 harbour explosion that destroyed parts of the city)– essentially reflects the depression and disillusionment that enveloped Lebanon as corruptions were exposed.
Even when she reunites with her former boyfriend Adam (Roger Azar) she is little more than indifferent and distracted, but at least uses the opportunity to escape the flat and glimpse a little of the remnants of the city she once knew.
Ely Dagher shoots his home city beautifully – it may look dour and downbeat, but there is an underlying beauty to the city which at times appears haunted by its vibrant past. Yes, depression haunts so much of The Sea Ahead, but it simply reflects the contemporary sadness and worries that permeate the city.
Lebanon-Belgium-France-US-Qatar, 2021, 116mins
Dir/scr Ely Dagher
International sales Jour2Fete
Producer Arnaud Dommerc
Cinematography Shadi Chaaban
Editors Lea Masson, Ely Dagher
Music Joh Dagher
Main cast Manal Issa, Fabi Abi Samra, Rabih El Zaher, RogerAzar, Yara Abou Haidar