Seabreeze is a poignant and heartbreaking glimpse into the immediate aftermath of tragedy. The film, depicting the breakdown of a drug-addicted woman who has recently miscarried, is shot sensitively but unflinchingly. Drenched in atmosphere and beautifully shot, director Fatty Soprano draws the viewer in, placing them directly in the centre of a sympathetic and powerful depiction of a woman in crisis.
As the film opens, we are immediately treated to what feels like the warmest nostalgia. The credits overlay beautifully composed shots of an autumnal city, all filtered to look like grainy, 1970s film stock. The use of Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ in this opening sequence, however, brings the film’s emotions to the surface immediately and leaves them there, threatening to spill over at any moment. We are immediately struck by the contrast between beauty and sadness, a motif which characterises Soprano’s film.
The suffering present in the film unravels itself through stark images and quick cuts, fragmenting the events that led up to the present moment. Switches between colour and black-and-white suggest perhaps memory, perhaps fantasy. The short scenes of the mother’s miscarriage and drug addiction are brutal and crystal clear, forcing us to confront their horror. A particularly striking moment sees the mother walking a dark street, blood covering her face. She initially maintains a neutral expression, but helplessly dissolves into sobs. Each of these moments contribute to the sense of being overwhelmed and the impossibility of escape. Soprano’s wonderful direction and editing place us inside the mother’s mind, confused and grief-stricken, looking for a way out.
The return of ‘Clair de Lune’ at the film’s climax emphasises the bittersweet nature of the hallucinated meeting between mother and daughter; a moment of beauty tinged by the sadness of its inevitable collapse. This final scene is where Shelby Handley shines, her emotion understated but tremendously impactful. There is a palpable ache in their conversation, a desperate desire for things to be different, that encapsulates the heartbreak of the film. The possibility of something better, something beautiful, that can never be. In this brief scene, the film expertly navigates the denial of grief and the hopelessness of clinging to an alternate reality. The ending verges on sentimental at times, but wisely avoids becoming too bogged down in the interaction between mother and daughter. Soprano is not interested in exploiting sadness, wringing it out and hitting the audience in the face with it, but in the devastating “almost” of a miscarriage.
Seabreeze is a difficult watch. Equal parts beautiful and horrifying to behold, Soprano places us directly in the centre of grief. We empathise wholly with the mother, experiencing her suffering as if it is happening to us, and wishing with her that everything had turned out differently. Soprano does well to involve us so directly, navigating tricky subject matter delicately without ever condescending to the viewer or to the mother. Seabreeze deftly depicts the melancholia of imagined happiness in the face of death, leaving us with a desire to cherish the joy of life and to empathise with those who can’t.