Four Seasons in a Day (2021) Hot Docs 2021 Winner

April 29th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Annabel Verbeke | Doc, 75′

Cross-border conflict is gently played down in this light-hearted look at the Carlingford ferry that brings Catholic and Protestant together in holiday mode as they contemplate another social divide – that of Brexit.

Four Seasons in a Day┬áleaves the Emerald Isle’s legendary ‘troubles’ behind; – at least for a while – on the sea border crossing that divides the UK’s majestic Mourne Mountains from the Cooley Peninsula in the Irish Republic, only 15 minutes away. Families are at leisure reflecting wistfully on the past and future, post Brexit – but religious and nationalistic views are there to stay.

This impressive feature debut is the second foray into geosocial dynamics for Belgium filmmaker Annabel Verbeke – who first looked at the societal legacy of the wartime city of Ypres in We Will Not Forget (2018). Here the tone is as mellow as the gentle landscape but storms clouds overhead warn how quickly the mood can change. A dip in the limpid water warns of an underlying chill: “”the fish don’t change their views” say one bright spark about the border between the two countries, which lies somewhere under the murky depths.

Verbeke lets the camera roll over wide open seascapes and onto the Carlingford ferry to eavesdrop on tourists and locals from both sides of the border to find out what the new boundary means to them. What emerges is a no-holds-barred expose of low-key racism enforced by parents who lived through the ‘troubles’ and are keen to pass their staunch genes onto their family.

A tattooed “Leave”-voting Protestant dad makes his kids aware that although he’s glad the new generation can have Catholic friends, it wasn’t possible back in the day. Meanwhile an Irish mother, sitting down to a mammoth jigsaw puzzle with her son, states categorically – on the verge of tears – that she’ll always be Irish. There are no shades of opinion here.

And while everybody ‘welcomes’ multiculturalism there’s a sneaky suspicion they’re leery of it behind the scenes as we eavesdrop on discussions through windscreens of cars driving off the ferry, in the comfort of the mobile holiday homes, the windy golf course, or even the sandy beach.

Some are celebrating a major birthday, or mourning a loved one. All are delighted to spot the friendly dolphin cavorting in the waves, oblivious of cross-border changes. Kids are there to provide unscheduled moments of humour, and candid remarks on human relations. A discussion about their future romantic plans gets down to basics: “you’ll always need someone to help with the shopping and the bills”. Meanwhile a kindly funeral director takes a sanguine view of both sides of the equation: “make the most of each day, it may be your last”

This reflective and refreshing non-political look at Brexit’s border impact won the EMERGING INTERNATIONAL FILMMAKER AWARD at Toronto’s HOTDOCS 2021. MT




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