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Seagrass ★★★★★



Director: Meredith Hama-Brown

Cast: Ally Maki, Luke Roberts, Chris Pang

Released: Festival du Nouveau Cinéma 2023

If you’re currently making a list of the best and most inspiring feature debuts before the end of the year, Meredith Hama-Brown’s Seagrass better be on it. After having its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it recently screened at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal as part of the National Competition lineup. That’s the value of film festivals. As a moviegoer, you go through the program and discover some exciting titles that might pique your interest. Written and directed by Hama-Brown, she deserves all the praise for her terrific feature debut, and it makes you look forward to seeing what she does next.

Seagrass revolves around an interracial couple who decides to go on a therapy retreat on a remote island to hopefully work out their issues while their two daughters are also tagging along with them. Judith (Ally Maki) is a Japanese-Canadian who is still grieving over her mother’s death, which is one of the reasons that has heavily affected her relationship with her husband, Steve (Luke Roberts). As they’re both figuring out their issues, they meet up with another biracial couple who seems to have the perfect ideal relationship. This causes peer pressure on Judith and Steve as we follow their emotional journey from start to finish.

There’s so much to love about this film. Let’s start with the acting because everyone in the cast is terrific. They all bring something crucial to the overall premise through their outstanding performances and Hama-Brown’s brilliant script. The compelling bond between actor and storyteller can be felt throughout. She ensures that her characters have a ton of depth and development from beginning to end. You can tell this is a very personal story for the director, particularly with the theme of cultural identity, which Maki does a phenomenal job exploring through her role. She and Roberts have great chemistry with one another, and you feel for them. When it doesn’t focus on the parents, it also concentrates on the heartfelt adventure of the two daughters, Steph and Emmy. Special shoutout to Remy Marthaller, who portrays the youngest daughter, Emmy, while carrying a vital character arc as the heart and soul of the narrative.

Seagrass is also incredibly beautiful to look at. Norm Li’s cinematography showcases the unique and captivating beauty of 35mm film, adding emotional layers to the characters and landscape shots. Hama-Brown takes her time to let the story unfold while ensuring everything feels well-developed in pacing and progression. Nothing feels rushed, proving her incredible talent as a remarkable storyteller. It’s always a tremendous feeling to see a filmmaker’s passion project come to life on screen, especially after all the hard work the whole cast and crew must have gone through during the three stages of production.

Seagrass genuinely deserves all the success it’s been getting lately. Hama-Brown has a bright future in writing and directing, especially after the release of a solid feature debut with an exceptional amount of heart. Indeed, a filmmaker you should keep your eyes out on in the future.  

Steven Lee has always been passionate about movies. He also writes for Short Ends, Montreal Rampage, That Moment In and Borrowing Tape.

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