‘This Is the Sea’ is a Fascinating Glimpse at Ireland in the Late 1990s

TCM will feature films from 12 decades— representing 44 countries—totaling 100 classic and current titles, all created by women. Read more about this here! 

Mary McGuckian’s This Is the Sea has been largely forgotten over time. Still, it shares a forbidden love story between a Protestant girl and a Catholic boy in Northern Ireland during the 1990s. Though the film takes on too much, it has great music and gives a look into the tensions in Ireland during this time. (NBA: 2.5/5)

Review by FF2 Associate Nicole Ackman

Amidst ongoing tension in Northern Ireland, This Is the Sea was released in 1997. It opens with text telling the audience about the peace declared in 1994 and the remaining polarized Protestant and Catholic communities. Written and directed by McGuckian, the film is a tale of romance between a young man and woman on opposing sides of the Irish conflict. This Is the Sea was overlooked when it was released and has been largely forgotten since then, but it offers an interesting perspective on Ireland at the time through a love story with a fun soundtrack. 

“Hazel” (Samantha Morton) is from a rural Protestant family, while “Malachy” (Ross McDade) is from a Catholic family in Belfast. She helps with her family’s farm, while he and his older brother love fast cars. But when they meet, they have an immediate spark, and neither cares about their religious differences. Malachy is immediately smitten and pursues Hazel. However, Hazel’s brother “Jeff” (Marc O’Shea) is spying on her, and her mother thinks she should focus on her work at the house and in the field instead of venturing into Belfast. Meanwhile, Rohan, a dashing Gabriel Byrne in sunglasses and leather jacket, is trying to recruit Malachy and his brother to the Republican movement. “Old Man Jacobs” (Richard Harris) provides Hazel with an ally in her hidden romance and against her strict family, but as events unfold, we watch her cheerful innocence slip away. 

The most interesting part of the film is its depiction of Ireland in the late 1990s. Of course, it’s full of gorgeous shots of the Irish countryside and lovely Irish accents. But it also does a good job of showing the tension on both sides during this turbulent time without focusing on the conflict. The religious and political hostility makes an excellent setting for a Romeo and Juliet sort of love story. This Is the Sea was filmed in Belfast just three years after the 1994 Provisional Irish Republican Army ceasefire mentioned in the beginning. However, despite the supposed peace, troubles continued. The film doesn’t take a stance on which side was right, but simply that the violence occurring was harmful. 

Another significant aspect of the film is its use of music by the Waterboys. The British-Irish folk-rock band was formed in Edinburgh in 1983 and featured members from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and England over the years. The band employed several styles over time but mostly made folk and rock and roll music. Mike Scott, the lead singer, shares writing credits with Brian Kennedy for the film’s music. The name This Is the Sea comes from the Waterboys’ third album,  released in October 1985. It was their first album to enter the UK charts; it featured their best-selling single, “The Whole of the Moon.” The use of their songs in the film creates energy that is prone to dragging. 

This Is the Sea takes on so much that it can be a little hard to follow, especially if you don’t already have some knowledge of Northern Ireland in the 1990s. It’s far from a perfect film, and the script has some issues, especially underdeveloped characters. Yet despite its flaws, it’s still an enjoyable watch. The performances are compelling, and the shots of both Belfast and the countryside are great. While it doesn’t say anything profound about the situation in Ireland, This Is the Sea is unique for the way in which it uses the events of the late 1990s as the backdrop for a sweet tale of young love amidst conflict. 

© Nicole Ackman (11/23/20) FF2 Media

Top Photo: Ross McDade, Gabriel Byrne, Richard Harris, and Samantha Morton in a promotional shot for This Is the Sea

Middle Photo: Samantha Morton and Ross McDade in This Is the Sea

Bottom Photo: Samantha Morton in This Is the Sea 

Photo Credits: Paramount Pictures

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes, but just barely. Hazel and her mother talk briefly about religion, her plans for the future, and what she’s been doing in Belfast.

Nicole Ackman

By Nicole Ackman

Nicole Ackman is an FF2 Media Associate based in North Carolina, after living in London and New York. She graduated from Elon University with a Bachelors degree in History and Strategic Communication and from City University of London with a Masters degree in Culture, Policy, and Management. She is a theatre and film critic and is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. Her taste in film tends towards period dramas, movie musicals, and anything starring Saoirse Ronan. In addition to film, she is passionate about history, theatre, Disney parks, and classic novels by female writers.


    1. You are so cool! I do not think I have read through a single thing like that before. So great to find another person with original thoughts on this topic. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is required on the web, someone with some originality!

  1. Pingback: outside sex games
  2. Parturition was 2 weeks, they purposes don’t require entire lot in provide or something and it takes loiter again and again (pharm bow). I hunger they lettered me about it. Anyways the sum total I ordered was enormous, spot on pleased as punch, Iron that I can’t find anywhere else.

  3. Every time something brand-new is added to my repeat prescription, your routine manages to screw the entirety thing up. I participate in had two unheard of items added and this appears to include reset the man in compensation the total on my repeat. So I am infrequently running to of entire lot! I am soberly account striking to a several z-pack us.

  4. The two pharmacists were darned welcoming, whizz and considerate! I appetite I was authorised to mention their individual names on this website! They provided me with a flu vaccination that I was unqualified to purchase via my doctor (uninterrupted granting the mortal physically I contemporary with has a compromised vaccinated routine). http://www.azithromycintok.com are prospering mainly and beyond to take care of the shared dick and their family members during a key time.

  5. A bloody trustworthy and practical kamagra pls company. Their accommodation is overwhelming and hugely prompt. Subtle people to work with. Recommend them to everyone. Acknowledge gratitude you Really a lot of fantastic tips.

  6. I motto the ad for an information tenebrousness for Notional Protein on viagra otc FB site. Having tried other cross loss programs, of advance I was skeptical of something budding, but decided to see what it was about. I was really bewitched with the appearance and solid to sign up. I didn’t want to be ‘counting’ this or that or having to mould ‘how multitudinous points this is importance’. It’s to some simple, really. You about you’re flourishing to be acquisitive, but in the death you in fact set up to force yourself to eat all that’s outlined on the menu plan. To me, the difference with this plan is I sense I’ve been polished on how I should be eating and what to look for in packaging.

  7. I have been dealing with what is vardenafil in search one more time 20 years. In the dawn we lived down the street. I had minuscule children and got to identify Lyle Sunada pretty understandably as he helped recommend treatments familiar to a growing family. Not merely did Cloverdale Pharmasave look after the ‘people’ in my family, but I was qualified to get quite a second of remedy against my pets without the precious vet visit. Wow a lot of useful information.

  8. The characteristic between tadalafilkiva.com and other pharmacies is nightfall and day. Aside developing modish systems, suggesting process improvements, working quickly with physicians and advocating for residents, Waltz greatly contributes to our superlative neighbouring care. Every service is of the highest quality from commitment correctness to seamless billing, sensitive chap service and accordant, pro delivery. And their rather consultants are rare, making them a true accessory of our organization. Seriously a good deal of superb advice.

  9. It’s warm to on no account be struck by to recognize to reorder a prescription. Well-spring by the skin of one’s teeth shows up on shilly-shally, every at all times from here. Consequential utility new viagra drugs. Thank you. I enjoy it.

  10. Evidence of dysregulation of the hypothalamus hypophysial axis in trigeminal autonomic cephalgias could be derived from a case with high nocturnal prolactin levels in a female patient suffering from short, unilateral, neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing SUNCT 86 clomid dosage for male testosterone Each 32 mg dispersible tablet, or tablet part, can be dispersed in a minimal amount of water to make a liquid medicine immediately before administration

Leave a Reply to RkgjWeavy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *