In See the Sea (1997) you will indeed cast your eyes upon la mer. However, you may see, and hear, a few other things that are not quite as beautiful.
Set on a rugged French island, there is a rustic beauty to See the Sea that helps one to swallow the bitter pill that is to come. The lead actress, Sasha Hails, is also rather appealing. She plays an easy to remember Sasha who is living in a lovely white house on this seemingly remote island with her baby, Sioffra. While this is not a horror film per se, there is a certain tension about which makes it somewhat of a low-key psychological thriller. There is an air of something is going to happen and it is probably not going to be good.
A young woman drifter, Tatiana, insists on camping on the grounds and, despite all polite objections voiced by Sasha, she indeed allows the young drifter to stay. Tatiana is very insistent. And she is allowed to stay. A standard horror film trope, this is mistake number one. Appealing and nice, Sasha next provides all manner of wonderful hospitality followed by a very trusting nature where the baby is concerned. After all, Sasha used to be an au pair and has a keen eye for talent. Who better to help with the baby than a weirdo driftress with hygiene issues. That this will not end well is a certainty only exceeded by the tides which wash the island beaches.
Anyway, there are a few interesting things about this movie as well as a few things that are frankly gross. And I do mean frank and gross. Among the interesting things is a Werner Herzog meets Terrance Malick-like devotion to the cinematography of plants and grasses swaying in the sea breeze. This is nice. On the other hand, a certain urban legend rears its ugly head with our oblivious mother none the wiser. I certainly hope this is an urban legend come to life on the silver screen only. This is gross.
Then there is some very frank dialogue translated for your displeasure so that you can not only hear it in the oh-so-continential and beautiful French, but you can read it and weep in black and white English in the subtitles. Sasha is clearly shocked, disturbed, and taken-aback by this conversation.
Mainly, both of these things highlight the possibly (???) (uh, !!!) disturbed nature of Tatiana, and the question of the security of Sasha and Sioffra. Although Sasha never knows, we hope, about the first gross-out, she does know about the graphic conversation and this casts the whole thing into knew or should have known territory as to what and whom she is dealing with. Tatiana has issues, for sure, and some are revealed to be very sad.
However, life on the island goes merrily along for awhile and the woods of this remote and seemingly unpopulated island are awash with all manner of libertines whom our lovely mother, Sasha, joins with bold curiosity. Where this falls on the interesting to gross to frank continuum will depend on the various proclivities of dear viewer. These people are French, for crying out loud.
Meanwhile, baby Sioffra is left on the beach, tides notwithstanding, while mother adventures in the woods. I’ll give credit to director and writer, Francois Ozon, for revealing my normally cavalier concerns for babes in danger to actually have a bottom. “What about the baby?” I worried aloud. Sasha is a really good mother 99 percent of the time. But in that other one percent, she demonstrates a real flair for wanton negligence. The saving grace, I suppose, and for lack of a better term, was that she did not have a car in these summer climes. Nancy Grace could have a field day with this mother, headlines screaming, “Hot Car Mother Leaves Baby on Beach While Trysting in Woods with Omnivores.” Fortunately, See the Sea is set in France. Why pile on? (Mockingly, an answer comes sottovoce from the direction of the very French woods.) (Editor’s Note: Reader must supply leering French accent. I can’t do everything around here.)
At the end of the day, this little uncut gem checks in at under 52 compact minutes. So, if it is not your cup of tea, then at least you cannot say you wasted a whole hour. Heck, you spend that much time brushing your teeth. And you will keep brushing your teeth. Yes, if nothing else, See the Sea gives you scenes you wish could be unseen. And with that, I bid you adieu. I mean, see ya!