Seaside, written and directed by Sam Zalutsky, is a new dramatic thriller that leans a bit too heavily into the drama for its own good. An over-the-top attempt at a mystery that ultimately ends up feeling like a cheesy melodrama, this film is unlikely to register on most radars, and for good reason.
The movie is about a woman who, having recently made the decision to start a family with her new husband, makes a discovery about his past that challenges what she knows about him. The plot of the film is just as generic as it sounds, and ultimately, it just gets worse and worse as the movie progresses. What the filmmakers seemed to think were creative and unique twists were in reality silly and ineffective.
The film’s pacing is terrible. Although the runtime is only an hour and a half, it feels like it is much longer. The first half of the movie is very slow as it tries to find its footing and introduce all of the plot threads that come into play in the latter half, which ends up being absolutely ridiculous. The film goes from feeling lethargic to being completely inept and illogical, all because of a single plot point that comes in from left field. And the ending? Perhaps the worst ending in any movie you will see all year.
Also weak is the film’s character development. Quite frankly, all of the characters aren’t likable at all. For much of the first half of the movie, we feel bad for Daphne, but then we become able to see deeper into who she is and it’s not very compelling. Roger, on the other hand, is a terrible person from the get go. We obviously aren’t supposed to like them, but the issue comes when we aren’t able to identify with any of the characters in the film.
That said, lead actress Ariana DeBose (a former stage actress who will be playing Anita in Spielberg’s version of West Side Story), gives a solid performance and is the main reason that the movie is watchable. Although she is a bit too big at times, that can be attributed to her theatrical origins and will likely be broken when she works with the more established director.
Zalutsky is also able to build an atmosphere that is sadly put to waste. The coastal setting of the film is one that works perfectly for an old-school crime thriller, and you can tell that this is ultimately what the movie hopes to be, but unfortunately, the plot is just too cheesy and over-dramatic to work on that level. Had some of the more ridiculous aspects of the plot (particularly those in the third act) been trimmed out, this could have been an all-around solid film.
On a technical level, the movie isn’t bad, but you can’t help but feel like something more could have been done. Given the fact that the film is set on the Oregon Coast, you expect the movie to have gloomy and grey overtones throughout, and it does. Yet Zalutsky does nothing with this greyness. The great classic noir films use this color scheme to their advantage, but Zalutsky’s movie seems entirely overpowered and enslaved by it.
Apart from a good lead performance from Ariana DeBose, a talented actress who deserves (and seems to be getting) better projects, Seaside really doesn’t have much to offer. Your best bet is to sail away from this shore.
Seaside hits VOD on August 20.