Lebanon is a country in an existential crisis. Today, the currency has all but collapsed and inflation spirals out of control. While fuel shortages have made normal life all but impossible. The most talented young people have left the country and civil unrest increases inexorably. The majority of the population have fallen into poverty. Beirut has always been its jewel and yet this once great multicultural city has become a shadow of its former self. This turmoil provides the backdrop to The Sea Ahead.
Jana (Manal Issa) has been living in Paris. Either studying or working, or maybe both, it’s unclear. Her return to Beirut is as sudden as her departure. She returns to her parent’s apartment; everything feels familiar and yet different somehow. Her father (Rabih El Zaher) isn’t working, but her mother (Yara Abou Haidar) doesn’t seem worried. She’s in a state of apathy, unwilling or unable to explain herself. Stuck in a rut. Getting back together with an ex, Adam (Roger Azar), draws Jana our but the city’s malaise throws a pall over her.
The Sea Ahead is an intricate study of a young woman tortured by her failures and unable to reconcile with her past. Jana is essentially stuck. In a city which is strikingly familiar and yet somehow corrupted. Parents who love but can’t understand her. Like a bird trapped in a cage she has nowhere to go. Issa embodies this ennui. Occasionally getting lost in the moment but mired in her own misery. Ely Dagher’s film captures the shadows of a great civilisation. The Sea Ahead is a lyrical portrait of decay and disillusionment.
The Sea Ahead screens at London Film Festival.