WHERE THE SEA USED TO BE

By Paul FARREN

TOOOLDTOOUGLY - as PROD

First film - Completed 2012

A brief family reunion turns into an uneasy return home for Patrick. Escaping the problems of the present is about to leave him facing the ghosts from the past.

    • Year of production
    • 2012
    • Genres
    • First film, Drama, Comedy
    • Countries
    • IRELAND
    • Languages
    • ENGLISH
    • Duration
    • 80 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Paul FARREN
    • Writer(s)
    • Stephen WALSH, Paul FARREN
    • Producer(s)
    • Sean CUTHBERT (TooOldTooUgly Productions)
    • Synopsis
    • Brothers James and Patrick see each other exactly once a year, on Christmas Eve. They like to keep it short- one drink and goodbye until next time.
      Patrick is outwardly successful, working for an international pharmaceutical company. He’s married and has a young son, Nikolai. But his job keeps him away from home for long periods and things aren’t good between him and Nadia, his wife. He calls her repeatedly but her phone goes straight to voicemail.
      A year or two younger than his brother, James leads a chaotic life. He’s lost his most recent job and is in trouble with the law. His latest scheme is to go back to his former job as a fisherman. He tries to be flippant about borrowing money from Patrick. But he knows that Patrick can see through his act, just as he can see that all is not well with Patrick.
      They swap a few memories and crack a few jokes. The only confidence Patrick seems prepared to share is that he’s suffering from constipation. And then- thankfully- it’s time for him to go. James seems relieved to get the awkward annual ritual over with before too many gastric details are forthcoming. Patrick seems happy to get away too.
      But something is eating at both men. Patrick goes to the station and can’t- or won’t- get on the train. By the time James realises that his brother has forgotten his laptop and runs to the station with it, Patrick is on his way back to the pub.
      James returns and his concern for his brother turns to annoyance when he sees Patrick knocking back another drink. He barely even thanks James for rescuing his laptop. James accepts a drink, but he’s pissed off. He jeers Patrick for missing the train, then backs down and says that he can always catch the next one. Patrick, however, insists that there are no more trains today. James is fairly sure this is a lie, but he’s not going to come right out and say it; no more than he’s about to ask his brother about the crisis in his life that “missing” the train home seems to indicate. He finishes his drink and leaves to go about his own Christmas Eve business.
      He doesn’t get very far. Something pulls him back. He’s seems more annoyed at himself than at his brother as he returns and leads Patrick out into the city. Patrick follows him without a word, rolling his suitcase behind him.
      James is heading back to the town where they both grew up; where he still lives. And it looks like Patrick is going with him. James sits in the front of the taxi, chatting with the driver. Patrick sits in the back, where his jet-lag and daytime drinking combine to make him very uncomfortable. He complains about the noise of the radio and everything else he can think of. This is as much as James can take. Soon the brothers are shouting at each other like kids. The driver stops the taxi and throws them out.
      Clearly, they’re both at fault. But as far as James is concerned Patrick has just messed up his day even more. He has things to do. He has people to see.
      Patrick looks around. The taxi has deposited them by the sea. Across the bay he can see the fishing village where they both grew up. While Patrick wanders down to the shore to take in the view, James gets on the phone to try and salvage his day.
      He talks to a friend, Ructions, who has been taking his place delivering “Meals on Wheels” to housebound old people while James went to meet Patrick. Ructions seems to be making a mess of it, which aggravates James even more. He escalates to outright anger when he turns around and sees that his brother has vanished.
      He finds Patrick on the seashore. His anger is compounded by the sight of his brother basking in the view, clearly enjoying himself. Does he not know he’s ruined James’ day? He turns and storms away across the beach. After a moment, Patrick picks up his suitcase and follows him.
      We next see Patrick on a bus, trying again to call his wife. He only manages to get her voicemail again. The good mood he enjoyed on the beach dissipates. Sitting across the aisle, James has calmed down a bit and cracks a few jokes at Patrick’s expense. Nikolai will be upset not to see his dad on Christmas Eve; Nadia will be furious, etc. But he relents. He seems to know he might go too far.
      He’s trying to think of something cheerful to say to Patrick when the only other passenger on the bus sits up into view on the back seat. Santa Claus. Or at least a man in a Santa Claus suit. The newcomer sits down beside Patrick and asks the kind of direct questions James never would. Soon he knows about Nadia and Nikolai. James can’t resist adding the detail that Patrick is constipated. Santa Claus is most sympathetic. He even has some medical advice.
      No sooner have James and Patrick got off the bus than their aunt Betty spots them and comes running. She reproaches James for not telling her that Patrick was coming home. There’s a sense that Patrick doesn’t come home often.
      Betty hijacks Patrick and brings him back to her house. She wants to give him lunch. She has some food that’s past its sell-by date and will only be thrown out of he doesn’t eat it. Patrick tags along.
      Betty’s husband Benny is upstairs and never quite gets it together to come downstairs to see the two “boys”. Betty embarrasses James by revealing a few more details of his “Meals on Wheels” story. He seems to have been sentenced to community service for hitting somebody called Ben Hannigan who Patrick can’t quite remember from when they were kids.
      Betty enjoys remembering old Christmases. When the brothers were younger. The year their mother’s appendix burst on Christmas Eve…
      This particular story from the past sends Patrick to the toilet with a pain in his stomach. James happily informs Betty that he’s suffering from constipation. She knocks on the door and offers him a homeopathic remedy, just as he’s trying to call Nadia again.
      James enjoys the scene as Patrick flees Betty’s slightly crazed hospitality. The brothers are together again, walking the streets of the harbour town in which they grew up. James has plans for the evening. Patrick just wants to go back to the family home and sleep. But James doesn’t have the key.
      Ructions has the key. He’s been using the house as a base for his “Meals on Wheels” deliveries. But when they bump into Ructions, Patrick gets chatting and forgets to ask him for the key. James and Ructions seem to have dates for this evening.
      Ructions is interested in a woman called Mel. James calls her to make sure that her friend Aisling will also be out this evening. Mel invites the brothers to her place for a cup of tea. She wants to meet this brother she’s heard so much about. As the tea is poured, James makes a point of announcing that he needs to take a shit and heads off to the bathroom.
      As they chat, Patrick realises that Patrick has told Mel all about him, and about Nikolai too. She asks him what Santa Claus is bringing to Nikolai. Well, he wants a mobile phone…but he’s only five. Who would he call? They laugh. But Patrick is surprised and touched at the idea of his brother speaking fondly and proudly about him. Mel is also looking forward to seeing Ructions this evening.
      Mel works in the pub where James hit Ben Hannigan. James was a bouncer until the events of that night got him fired, and intends to collect the wages he considers he’s still owed. So the brothers accompany Mel to work. She’s the bouncer now.
      The pub us deserted but for two white-haired men sitting at the bar, Jiggs and Ronnie. There’s no sign of the boss, Grabber, who Patrick knows of old and is not looking forward to seeing. James falls in with Jiggs and Ronnie and soon the three of them are joking and enjoying themselves, while Patrick looks out the window and across the harbour below.
      James goes behind the bar and starts pouring beer for everybody, just as Grabber finally appears, a vision of barely contained personality disintegration, wearing a blue dressing gown and little else.
      He’s delighted to see Patrick. The feeling isn’t mutual. He surveys his crumbling domain and solicits Patrick’s approval of the “improvements” he’s made. The place is a mess. He considers Patrick a fellow businessman and asks questions but never waits for answers without ploughing forward with more of his own self-obsessed babble.
      He talks about all the crazy stuff they got up to when they were kids. Patrick remembers things differently. Grabber was a bully. But Grabber is deaf to this, high on memories of a past that only he remembers. Patrick looks down and sees that Grabber has begun to cut his long, gnarly toenails with a razorblade. He cuts himself and screams.
      Walking down the hill with James, Patrick now has the whole picture: James hit Ben Hannigan, was charged by the police and sentenced to perform community service…which he managed to get Ructions to do for him. Patrick enjoys the joke at James’s expense.
      Now James needs to collect his Christmas dinner. A lobster. The brothers head for the harbour, swapping stories of the trouble they got into as kids; relaxed in each others’ company now. Patrick points out the remains of the old harbour wall, now sticking up out of a car park since parts of the harbour were filled in. So this car park is where the sea used to be.
      It turns out that the lobster has yet to be caught, but the boat is ready to go. They head out into the bay aboard a fishing boat just as the loveliest part of the late afternoon light plays across the water. This is the job their father used to do. This is the job that James is thinking of returning to. This is the job that Patrick has run away from.
      The lobster is caught and the boat returns to harbour just as night falls. Patrick agrees to go for a pint with James. Just one.
      It’s early, so the pub is quiet. But the few people there all know Patrick. An old fisherman reckons that he looks exactly like his father. Patrick isn’t sure if this is a compliment. James heads off to see if Aisling has arrived, leaving Patrick with Ructions’ brother Gary, who sits quietly thinking of nasty things to say to him.
      Gary reminds Patrick of the time he went to the school dance by himself. Patrick responds that the girl was in a car crash and he wasn’t going to let both tickets go to waste, was he?
      James finds Ructions outside in the smoking area. He’s finished his deliveries. He even had one meal left over, which he ate himself. But there were no spare meals…
      Mel arrives, but only with the news that Aisling isn’t coming. James pretends he isn’t bothered.
      Inside, Gary keeps trying to embarrass Patrick. But when he looks up and sees Patrick silently, darkly watching him, he seems to retreat into himself. Patrick offers him a drink. He accepts.
      The place is getting crowded. The band is tuning up. Patrick tries calling Nadia again and bumps into Susan, with whom he went out when he was a teenager. She’s friendly, but a bit wary. He seems to be trying to flirt. He asks her if they might have a chat later and she seems to agree.
      He’s in the bathroom when his phone rings. He answers. It’s Nikolai. Santa Claus came early and brought him a mobile phone. So he called his dad.
      When is he coming home? Patrick avoids the question by saying that there’s no train service on Christmas Day. Then he asks Nikolai if he can speak to his mother for a moment.
      James is sitting alone in the smoking area when Patrick comes out and offers him a whiskey. He has one for himself too. He tells his brother that he finally spoke to Nadia.
      -“Did you tell her you were a fucking eejit?”
      -“I think she knows that already.”
      Then they hear the band start into an old song. A familiar voice joins in. It’s Betty. This seems as good a time as any to leave.
      Betty’s song is heard as the brothers leave and walk the quiet streets of the town. All day, people have been asking if Patrick has come out to see his parents. The answer, finally, is yes.
      James opens the graveyard gate and they go in, crossing to the headstone that marks their parents’ resting place. Their father died some years ago, but their mother passed away only last year.
      Patrick spots a spelling mistake on the headstone and the brothers bicker again. James tells him that if he was so worried about stuff like that, then he should have come to the funeral.
      Somehow, Patrick couldn’t- or wouldn’t- come to the funeral.
      Well, he’s here now.
      Patrick and James walk back to the old family home. James says he has something to tell Patrick. But Patrick guesses: James is planning to sell the family home and buy a fishing boat. James wonders if he has a problem with that. No, he doesn’t. It’s James’s house now.
      The house already has a “SOLD” sign in the garden when they arrive. Patrick smiles. Inside, the place is in disarray. Boxes everywhere. But there’s still pictures on the walls. Boats and seascapes. Painted by their father.
      James finds a bottle of something and pours it into two cups. He jokes about Patrick chatting up Susan. Patrick wonders who the girl who didn’t turn up was. Eventually the brothers seem to get tired of sparring and relax. They clink their cups together in the best toast they can think of. To Nikolai.
      A bed is made for Patrick on the sofa, from where he can see James in his own bed in the adjoining room. James is nicely drunk now, and finally able to speak in something like a direct way. He tells his brother that things will work out between him and Nadia; that she loves him.
      Patrick replies that he thinks what James is doing is good. Buying a boat. He hopes it works out. He wishes his brother all the best with the enterprise.
      But James is already asleep.
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