'Seahorses' tries to say something deep but founders

No film called "Seahorses" can reach the end of its running time without someone delivering a monologue about those weirdly shaped critters. In writer-director Jason Kartalian's modest drama, the big moment comes at the halfway point, when a timid man tells a Craigslist hook-up about his pets, who live in captivity for only about a year. "We all have an expiration date," she shrugs.

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour >>

Ian Hutton plays the man, Martin, cautiously reentering the dating world after a bad breakup. Justine Wachsberger is Lauren, who in the opening minutes locks herself in Martin's bathroom. Most of the rest of the film plays out over one night in a swanky L.A. pad, where the mismatched couple gets to know each other.

Kartalian structures "Seahorses" more as a series of overworked speeches than as a true, spontaneous conversation. Even when Martin and Lauren break away to call friends or relatives, the interactions mostly just convey more backstory. They lack the rhythm of real life.

SIGN UP for the free Indie Focus movies newsletter >>

Much of the film's potential appeal is tied to whether the viewer cares about the two main characters, with all of their fussy quirks and personal baggage. It doesn't help that both of them resemble script-notes assembled into rough human form.

"Seahorses" means to say something relevant and current about modern romance and alienation, and everyone involved does admirable work. But the movie's never anything other than an artificial construction, where every detail strains for larger meaning — from the pictures on the wall to the fish in the aquarium.


No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 08, 2016, in the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Going for deep, but foundering - `SEAHORSES'" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
EDITION: California | U.S. & World