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To some it’s the devil incarnate, while most of us are just sick of hearing about it, so how on earth could a docufilm based around Brexit go down? Quite well, as it turns out, because Seaside Special captures perfectly the essence of an English coastal resort as it prepares for its annual ‘End-of-Pier‘ variety show, with one of the hottest topics in years as its backdrop.
The resort in question happens to be the Norfolk town of Cromer, which deserves a small paragraph of its own before we get to the nitty-gritty. Who knew what a gorgeous slice of British coastline it is? Not me, as to my eternal shame I’ve never been, but the North Sea’s never looked so charming.
Anyway, it should come as no surprise that this movie is turning out to be a surprise hit, as it’s all in the capable hands of Oscar-nominated German producer Jens Meurer. Besides receiving the European Academy Award as Documentary Filmmaker of the Year in 1995, he’s also a member of the German Government Advisory Group on film finance. That’s besides making over twenty flicks in Russia, some of which were produced whilst the Soviet Union was still in existence. All in all a CV you’d probably struggle to make up!
Meurer’s tight writing and direction ensure that the film plays nicely and is never once tempted to take a particular point of view and run with it. Thus, Seaside Special remains mostly impartial and so the spotlight is never removed from the Cromer community and their own piece of the eccentric British pie, as seen through the lens of a continental eye. This retention of innocence is integral to the movie’s theme, with not a cynical bone in its body, just a rich dollop of comedy and crabs.
What Seaside Special manages to do so well above all else is personify the relationship between the UK and EU. You can almost feel the emotion and a certain sorrow at the imminent parting of ways. Whether you think it’s for the best or not, breaking up is hard to do, as someone once sang. What’s more, the two parties will still be bumping into each other on a regular basis and will still have to try and get along, as Cromer’s proximity to the continent illustrates. Speaking of illustrations, there is, mercifully, a complete absence of statistics, which probably goes some way to explaining the movie’s balanced and credible point of view.
It’s not without some minor criticisms; the archetypal seaside variety show can overdo kitsch at times, but that’s purely subjective. Also some of the visual political references border on crass, but do marry nicely with the perpetual light humour. Without this, the people who feature in the film – letting us into a snapshot of their world, not to mention proving how putting on such a show is one mammoth task – would look out of place.
Seaside Special also takes a while before it gets to its hook, but once it does you’re… well, hooked. It’s just so damn interesting no matter whether how you feel about Brexit. Every angle and perspective is covered in the relatively short span of ninety minutes, and it’s also a strange feeling to hear some opinions knowing what we know now. Striking such a chord could even go as far as making it slightly uncomfortable viewing, for some at least.
With all that’s happened since the film was shot, who knows how prophetic it’ll turn out to be and for what reason; not that it set out to be such. One thing’s for sure is that this is entertaining and thought-provoking stuff, and could (briefly) unite the staunchest of remainers and leavers. Seaside Special is in UK and Irish cinemas from November 10.