Tideland Review

“If it’s shocking, it’s because it’s innocent,” is the preamble Terry Gilliam gives when introducing Tideland to its audience. We are on a mission, set by Gilliam, to rekindle our childhood. “When you drop them, they tend to bounce,” Gilliam says of children. No, I don’t know what he means either. As he ends his preamble and the movie rolls, there is an inherited wish within me to have never seen that one-minute clip. We are to switch off our minds though, as that is the only way to enjoy the brainless anxieties and innocent fears found in this Gilliam piece, a film better known for its controversy and depictions of addiction and strife than its actual merit as a piece of art.

Its issues are not in the message, but the representation of it. We are protected by an innocence that soon fades as we breach the fold of adulthood, but the film devolves rather rapidly into areas of concerningly bizarre moments. Noah (Jeff Bridges) on the bus, for instance, is beyond useless. He vomits, farts and staggers around like a drunkard. To what effect, though? Gilliam establishes very early on that there is a broken home behind this. Addiction fuels the poor choices of Noah and the impact it has on Jelizza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) is ambiguous at best. It is meant to showcase the psychological scarring, but Gilliam’s narrative is nowhere close to being up for such a task. Instead, it is a confused, controlling film that threatens its audience with a thematically heavy, broken film.

It is a shame to see Tideland has nothing much to offer for all the stylish choices and Dutch angles it includes. Those merits of its early narrative and story elements are eventually lost. They are insurmountable, and as Gilliam uses this piece as some form of shoddy self-reflection experiment, he loses the interest in the premise. Bridges cannot salvage this, and nor can Gilliam. He has been lost to his own land. He is utilising components that do make sense, but their presence does not gel well with his style.

Gilliam has a musing on how we do not experience life as adults the same we do as children. We were blind to trauma and horror back then, but are now open to the real terror that good parents hide us from. Jelizza-Rose does not have that. She fixes shots of heroin for her parents, who stagger around the home with wild ramblings and wishes of former glory. Gilliam has such a specific style that it usually works with the world he wishes to build. He is a man of many meanings; he can extract tales of terror from just about everywhere. Why it fails here is more to do with his portrayal of the message than the message itself. It is too obvious, too bleak, and fails to have the characters on the outside of this decrepit scenario looking in as if there is no trouble at all. That was the beauty of Brazil, the impact of Twelve Monkeys, and the absence found in Tideland.

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