The North Water offers a baptism of blood and a bearish Colin Farrell
New reports indicate that Hollywood studios and streamers are now looking for more “ambitious content,” meaning they want to show people “blue skies” as an antidote to the pandemic. It’s understandable that the public would want more to escape reality or have something to cheer up and inspire them in these trying times. But in the middle of a demanding week, at the start of a free trial subscription to AMC +, I started watching “The North Water” and quickly grabbed hold of it as just another kind of comfort food, perhaps the most unlikely beacon of life-affirming entertainment.
Written and directed by Andrew Haigh, based on a novel by Ian McGuire, “The North Water” begins with a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer, the pessimistic philosopher. “The world is hell, and men are both the tormented souls and the demons in it.”
With episode titles like “We Men, Miserable Things”, “The Devils of the Earth” and “To Live is to Suffer”, this is not, on the surface, a show that would seem uplifting. any way. Patrick Sumner, the disgraced doctor played by O’Connell, doesn’t have the same cheerful bedside manner as Ted Lasso.
For Sumner, the men of the “Volunteer” (and they are all men, there are few women on this show) are just bodies to examine. “It is not my job to judge them, to appease them or to befriend them,” he wrote in his diary. “I am a doctor … In my current state, I have very little comfort to give.”
The camera follows him as he floats the streets, clinically detached, numbed by his own moral failures and an indifferent world. Compare it to the bearded, beefy figure of Henry Drax, who attacks life: sending geysers of red mist, spraying himself and his comrades with whale blood. (A scene with a different animal later recalls a moment shared in Akira Kurosawa’s “The Revenant,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Dersu Uzala.)
Danish actor Roland Møller impresses as a touching Otto. When Sumner meets a missionary (Peter Mullan), his other white-bearded Guardian Angel talks about converting people. “My task,” he said, “is to help them grow … To develop their soul, to make them aware of themselves.
While watching “The North Water”, I found myself doing that a bit. As unlikely as it may sound, I drew strength from this survival journey, which meets the ruthless gaze of the world, sees the caged beast within each of us, and offers a glimmer of redemption from the other side.