Stories about good-time guys and gals the wrong side of 40 wrestling with the fact they’re now edging onto life’s off ramp aren’t exactly hard to come by, so any new effort needs to make a pretty aggressive case for existing. Tides gets a lot right, but ultimately a lack of ambition means that it won’t be more than a calling card for director Tupaq Felber.
This is a British film with minimal budget and a clear personal investment from all involved. The choice to film in black and white risks accusations of pretentiousness, but it works: the familiar Surrey countryside is made strange in a swoop. The cast — TV day-players who collectively co-wrote the script — are all naturalistic and avoid the self-indulgences actors can write themselves. They’re a gifted bunch.
Sadly, though, it’s not always clear why we’re watching these people. There are some loose threads around a quasi-love triangle, a bereavement and a controversial wedding picked up then forgotten about in favour of diversions like a lengthy scene where a character pops to the shops for biscuits and Rizlas. A long sequence of the four pals getting pissed accurately recreates the experience of sitting next to a loud table in a Hackney pub on a Sunday afternoon, but it’s not the most compelling watch.
Minimalism is fine, and not every plot has to be designed by a fiendish watchmaker, but it does help to actually dramatise something. Felber and his cast clearly relate to their London creative-type characters, but they forget that that they should be more than stock figures: a little more prodding under the hood, or seeing how these well-performed characters behave when they’re under more stress than a hangover, and the audience might have been induced to care. What makes them tick? What makes them crack? After 100 minutes in their company, you’ll be none the wiser.