Almost as much a physical viewing experience as an emotionally affecting one, Nickolas Duarte’s Sea Change is not for the faint-hearted. Centred around the complex relationship between two sisters, the uncommon ailment the younger one of them has to face and the struggle they go through while trying to beat this overwhelming thing together in search of a silver lining, it’s definitely worth sparing the time to give yourself over to this gripping drama.
Driving along the Pacific Coast to get to a doctor who promises he has a cure for Halie’s mysterious disease, the two young women spend their days on the road between beachsides and fleeting moments with strangers, while the pain and exasperation of the incurable illness always lingers beneath the surface and Tara has to put her own life and dreams on hold.
Despite the bleak premise, Duarte provides a heartfelt examination of how the two sisters deal with the situation and finds optimism in the close but complicated bond between the two main protagonists. Never has the hackneyed, post-millenial phrase “YOLO” resounded so deeply and actually hit home as a profound observation of life as in one of Sea Change‘s later scenes.
The core idea for the film started out as an attempt to address a sibling dynamic where one is obviously the caretaker of the other. Influenced by the filmmaker’s own family history as an older brother and a private journey along the Pacific Coast, Duarte and his co-writer combined these personal experiences and added an intense emotional element to the story. With the younger sister’s unusual disease, created through tenuous visual effects, working as a physical metaphor, “taking something beautiful (like a crystal) and turn it into the grotesque”. The short was shot in an improvisational manner over the course of 5 days on an actual road trip along the Pacific Coast that the fairly small crew and actors took together as the story unfolded.
Director Nickolas Duarte is a digital content and film director who has won several awards, including an Emmy, for his commercial work for clients such as Nike, BMW or the NFL. With Sea Change he saw an opportunity to build up his narrative portfolio and recently released his latest short film Fish Hook as well as finishing an episodic project called Little Girl Lost starring Sea Change‘s KJ Davidson-Turner.