Tides (2017)

Tides directed by Tupaq Felber is a black-and-white, quiet unfolding of old friendships.

Only Connect

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Why are there so many barge-based films out now? Perhaps it’s the hobbit-size, enclosed space that brings characters closely together or the smooth, leisurely glide of the narrow boat on the still water that lulls them into a sense of security that elicits confidences.

In Tides, four thirty- and forty-something friends meet up for a three-day reunion. They’re all actors. Jon (Jon Foster) is raw and on edge from a personal loss. Zooby (Jamie Zubairi) is ebullient, yet he achieves balance through his self-therapy of drawing. Jon and Zooby hire the boat and the film starts as they shop for provisions and talk endlessly about how much each of the four should pay. Simon (Simon Meacock) and Red (Robyn Isaac) join them en route for a laughter-filled drunken first night on board as they all meet up. It’s followed by a morning of hangovers, a day of quiet chugging through peaceful waterways, broken by outbursts arising out of Jon’s struggle with a tragedy that they are failing to address.

The film is shot in black and white, though it’s not obvious why as it gives a muted feel. There’s the opportunity for dramatic photography of lush riverbanks which works best when night falls, when it provides some glowing chiaoscuro lighting effects, yet it also greys out the contrast of the gloriously sunny summer days. Perhaps it’s meant to give a verité feel that goes with the acting and naturalistic dialogue, which seems to have arisen through improvisation. There’s lots of mates’ banter, yet none of the four seems to be a particularly appealing personality. When the only woman leaves, we are left with three men talking seriously about relationships and the effect of becoming parents in early middle age. The film seems to meander around the dynamics of the four characters, though maybe there’s a hint of its meaning in Jon’s description of a film he’s remembered that was made of clips of other films. Your brain cannot help but try and construe a story, he says, from the apparently random fragments and maybe that’s what’s intended in Tides.

Tides screened at the 61st BFI London Film Festival and is released on 7 December 2018 in the UK and on demand.

Join the discussion