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New Release Review - TIDES

tides movie review
Hoping to heal a grieving pal's wounds, a group of friends take to the canals of Southern England.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Tupaq Felber

Starring: Simon Meacock, Roderick Hill, Amanda Rawnsley, Jamie Zubairi, Jon Foster

tides movie poster

Of the many reasons to rejoice at the beginning of December (city streets lit up in electric neon, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, mince pies), perhaps the most imminent cause for celebration is the conclusion of the calendar’s most cringeworthy ‘event’: Movember. There are a multitude of reasons to mistrust the ‘tache based tournament; its vague motivations, the smugness; but perhaps the most egregious aspect of Movember (that name!) is its demonstrative nature. Trust The Lads to wrangle altruism into a competition where an ostensible benevolence and philanthropic intent is displayed upon your face for all to see. It’s the same reason why blokes man the barbecue, why the joker in the office comes into their own during Comic Relief: the sense that anything worth doing is only done if there is an audience to witness the effort. Any professed discussion about male madness almost immediately gives way to mad bants and hirsute leaderboards. And thus, as those pound shop Magnum P.I.s, those sos-so Scousers, scrape away their cock dusters, the prior month’s urgency surrounding Men’s Mental Health (words always solemnly intoned by the Movember Mario along with a magnanimous nod of the head) is quietly forgotten and the lads in the office go back to pestering the work experience girl or whatever.

It’s a shame, because there are serious implications behind the supposed motivations of Movember. The male suicide rate is four times that of women, and (this is according to the Samaritans website) the highest suicide rate is for men aged 45-49. Something is rotten in the state of masculinity. Perhaps a reason for the increasing toxicity of men’s mental health is the taboo nature of the topic. Being a man means you put up or shut up: any deviation from the archetypal norm is weakness, is unmanly. And so, the troubled waters which are a natural aspect of life’s ebb and flow are repressed, ultimately pressurised into dangerous fluxes which end up pulling us under. Which takes us (finally!) to Tupaq Felber’s superb Tides, a study of (predominantly) male friendship, grief and the acceptance of life’s treacherous undercurrents.

tides movie review

Tides is a loosely plotted, largely improvised monochrome indie about a group of middle-aged pals (shared cultural references include Rosie and Jim and the refrains from early '90s rap) who go on a barging holiday to cheer up one of their grieving number. No wait come back! Because Tides is a funny, sad, utterly captivating and completely recognisable depiction of masculinity and social grouping. Our main character is in some sort of mourning (specifically not vocalised, in keeping with the film’s theme of internalisation), and a trip through the canals of Southern England with a handful of friends is organised to support him. Beneath the banter, and the tediously familiar arguments about how to split the shopping bill, is a pull of sadness: not only the grief, but the inevitable melancholy of lives lived long enough to grow apart from friends, for dreams to fade and losses to accumulate.

tides movie review

Tides’ dialogue (and by necessity, the drama) is extemporised by its excellent actors, who all receive a writing credit, and which gives the film a completely authentic flow (I wonder if these guys all know each other IRL - if not then the easy chemistry is even more impressive). As the journey continues and secrets are revealed, while arguments flare and peter out, the improvisational nature of the performances are matched by Paul O'Callaghan’s cinematography and the chosen imagery of the film, which inventively makes the most of beautiful countryside, candlelit smoking sessions and the narrative serendipity of incidents like a passer-by’s dog accidentally falling into the canal (don’t worry - it was okay, he just wanted a little swim!). This virtuoso manipulation of natural circumstance is gorgeously wrapped up in an ambient, Boards of Canada-esque score by KAS-tro (best soundtrack ever?). The effect is one of total cinematic immersion.

tides movie review

The cosy claustrophobia of the cabin begins to take its toll, hangovers prevail, the weed gives way to deep discussions (nothing like a smoke to loosen the tongue), and Tides builds towards an emotional climax, as if only by being cut off from the rest of the world, within the remote environs of Hampshire’s countryside, can men become frank and honest. There is a female passenger, Red, who is carefully constructed in opposition to the fellas: the press release has her as a ‘drama queen’, and this is borne out by her unrequited crush on a gay passenger and her constantly going on about not having a shower. It isn’t a sexist depiction, but a representation which is implicated to outline the essential differences between the genders: Tides is a man thing, and it seems that only when Red leaves early to go to a wedding can the catharsis begin proper. As cheap as chips but priceless in its earnest and detailed presentation of friendship and sorrow, its unflinching and sensitive exploration of male companionship, Tides is an indie triumph and one of my films of the year.

Tides is in UK cinemas December 7th.


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