Review: Despite its cast, amnesia drama ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ is very forgettable

Two women sit facing each other and laughing
A moment of levity: Rebel Wilson and Charlotte Gainsbourg play two women coping with the long-term effects of their partners’ traumatic brain injuries in “The Almond and the Seahorse.”
(IFC Films)

In “The Almond and the Seahorse,” Sarah (Rebel Wilson in a dramatic turn) calls the equivalent of 911 to report her husband missing, though not really missing; he’s there with her at home. Just not all there. For his part, the otherwise-loving Joe (Celyn Jones) insists his spouse seems different, not well, prematurely aging. Meanwhile, Gwen (Trine Dyrholm) stirs in the cozy bed she shares with Toni (Charlotte Gainsbourg), only to be shocked when the woman she’s with doesn’t look as expected. Both Joe and Gwen, we learn, suffered traumatic brain injuries years ago, and their longtime partners must cope on a daily basis with their inability to make new memories and with the deterioration of their old ones over time (the “almond” of the title refers to the amygdala; the “seahorse” is the hippocampus).

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It’s fertile dramatic ground, though it has been more fruitful in “50 First Dates” and “Memento,” among others. The cast is game. Unfortunately, what should be gut punches feel like glancing blows.

Jones wears multiple hats, sharing adaptation credit with original playwright Kaite O’Reilly and making his directorial debut in collaboration with Tom Stern (Jones played the role of Joe in the play’s Wales stage run). The film uneasily dips into the cinematic language of romantic comedy and serious drama, not going deep enough with its characters — or actors — to immerse us in either. When two characters get together sexually, there’s little spark, nor the charge of two desperate people taking refuge in each other. Most of the dialogue is fine, rooted in a particular reality. But there are also instances — especially a heated scene between Sarah and Toni — in which it feels self-consciously theatrical.


Unfortunately, “The Almond and the Seahorse” isn’t as memorable as it could be.

'The Almond and the Seahorse'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Playing: Starts Dec. 16, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica; also available on VOD