The Almond and the Seahorse is an IFC Films adaptation of the stage play Katie O’Reilly and co-written with screenwriter and actor Celyn Jones (Six Minutes to Midnight), who is also reprising his role as Joe. Jones and cinematographer Tom Stern (Flags of Our Father) make their directorial debuts, and Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) stars in her first non-comedic role as Sarah alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg (Nymphomaniac), who plays Toni. The film compassionately shines a light on the sensitivities and challenges of people and families impacted by TBIs (traumatic brain injuries). The impact is more on the long-term effects on individuals who have suffered neurological trauma. Also, unveiling delicately but respectfully the tolls and sacrifices made by those who love and care for them.
Sarah (Rebel Wilson) is an archaeologist who, for the first few minutes of the film, leads under the assumption of having a single life. She gets drunk and emotionally crumbles to the point of calling emergency services to report her husband as ‘missing’; just because she had to talk to someone. The scene came across as more unnecessarily comedic, especially when her husband Joe walked into the room to say Hi. However, the harsh realities of Joe and Sarah’s world take over.
The Almond and the Seahorse gradually unfolds a blanket of complex truths of behavioral and mental instabilities of having to comprehend and cope with TBIs. Sarah loves her husband and does everything she can to help him – even as the notion of improvement on his end slips farther and farther away. Lost and feeling more alone than ever, Sarah crosses paths with another woman who knows what she’s going through.
Toni (Gainsbourg) and Gwen (Trine Dyrholm, Queen of Hearts) survive a horrific accident that happened 15 years before. Toni has reached the point of realization where her partner no longer feels safe around her. Toni has had to remind Gwen of the tragedy that happened and of all the memories passed that Gwen can no longer retain. Toni had given up her architecture career to stay by her side full-time even though Gwens’ TBI is not improving.
Toni makes the heartbreaking decision to commit Gwen to a facility where she can feel safe and get appropriate care. That decision weighs heavily on her consciousness and leaves Toni teetering at the brink of turmoil and confusion. She could either turn her back on Gwen and walk away or stay by the side of someone she loves so dearly, even though Gwen has no clue who she is anymore. Toni thought she had her answer until she met Sarah at the same facility and discovered that the two had more in common than expected.
The stories of the lives of these ladies are beautifully intertwined by another respectably dominant woman, Dr. Falmer (Meera Syal, Yesterday). Her character embraces privacy which is what she prefers, although two things are certain. For one, her fascination and approach to the research, understanding, and rapport of the human brain and those with TBIs are brilliant and truthfully invigorating. The study of the brain is fascinating. Secondly, to the first point but applied to people with no TBIs.
Dr. Falmer’s rock-hard demeanor is the glue that holds them all together. It takes a remarkable person to willingly take on the responsibility of understanding and caring for others who are losing their memories and/or their brain’s ability to function all while keeping on point those that still can. Love is the only thing that keeps them all going. Sarah and Toni are doing their best not to fall apart as they face their fears of being forgotten by the people they love most.
The Almond and the Seahorse respectfully portrays the painfully honest adversities people endure when they lose their memories or know someone they love with a traumatic brain injury. The film title is the two nicknames given to the parts of our brains that lay down new memories and hold on to the old ones. According to directors Celyn Jones and Tom Stern, the film’s adaptation is a human story; meant to be funny and sad. I can agree with that point. Unfortunately, the shooting of the film and parts of the dialogue are clumsy, awkward, and felt more like fillers.
I don’t know if that was intentional. Even so, those flaws gave the film an amateur look – considering the contextual realism. Rebel Wilson did a great job stepping up to play a more serious role. She looks fantastic too! The Almond and the Seahorse gives intriguing insight with brilliant retrospect into these debilitating circumstances. Thus, creating a masterpiece of the emotional stress and confusion it has on people and their loved ones. I love that aspect. More disappointing that the wobbly camera shots and the cheesy lines and quips degraded the quality of the story conveyed. It has the Hallmark feels with a ‘too good to be true happy ending’ but, it is what it is. A decent film nonetheless, just not movie theatre ticket worthy.
The Almond and the Seahorse is in theaters and on Demand now.