Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Sailing is the kind of activity that seems utterly opaque to those who don’t partake. Like horse-back riding, for example. “How hard can it be to sit on a horse?” asked no one who’s ever done it for more than an hour or so. “How hard can it be to sail a boat?” Very. Turning Tide is a love letter to those who can, and in particular to those who can do it for months at a time. Director Christophe Offenstein lays bare the technical skill, physical prowess, and astonishing endurance required to race a sailboat (a technological marvel in its own right) by following a pilot named Yann Kermadec (a rugged François Cluzet) in a race literally around the world. It’s a cinematographic feat of impressive immediacy, letting us feel the size of the waves, the vastness of the isolation, and the sailor’s innate connection to the winds and the sea.

What the movie lacks, unfortunately, is much of a point. The plot hinges on Kermadec’s picking up a Mauritian stowaway during a repair stop, which threatens his race because racers can have no help. But Kermadec handles it all so well, and everyone else involved in the race is ultimately so reasonable, that there’s almost no sense of conflict. This would be fine if the film treated the journey more as a character study, but it plays much more like a suspense thriller—What Will Happen, For God’s Sake?!?—that the plot just doesn’t require.

Still, it is a genuine thrill to watch the sailing. Man vs. sea: there’s your drama.

{Turning Tide screens at SIFF 6/2, 9:00pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown}