These days, it’s safe to say that the oceans of Earth have been exhaustively explored; we’re merely a click away from stunning and insightful documentary footage of the furthest reaches in each deep blue sea. None of this oceanographic fascination would have been the same without the seminal work of French pioneer, Jacques Cousteau.
The Odyssey focuses on the relationship between Cousteau (Lambert Wilson) and his son, Phillipe (Pierre Niney), who reveres his Icarian father as a small boy but as a young man becomes wary of flying under his wing and tries to carve his own niche away from his family. Phillipe acts as the explorer’s right-hand man during his rise to fame but abandons him as he is on his way down into obscurity and financial ruin.
As Cousteau becomes a household name, the film becomes deliciously more nuanced as his relationship with his wife (Audrey Tautou), his family and his crew are put under the strain of remaining profitable and relevant. Wilson and Tautou are absolutely irresistible as their marriage lives on a knife’s edge and watching them spiral into stubborn bitterness and spoiled romance is the true heart of the story.
Niney’s performance is hampered by a shallow script that swings his character from simple petulance to adolescent rebellion. The feature falters by establishing the heroic pioneering of Cousteau in the beginning only to then push him aside to focus on the recycled coming-of-age narrative of his half-sketched offspring.
Sadly, much like Phillipe struggles to live in his father’s shadow, The Odyssey struggles to live in the shadow of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a movie that captures the spirit of the French explorer with far more flair and complexity. Director Jérôme Salle dazzles the audience with arresting visuals that adopt Cousteau’s romantic view of nature. There is a warm, human core to the film that stems from this awe-inspiring depiction of the sea, which ties the characters together when nothing else seems too.
The Odyssey is released in selected cinemas on 18th August 2017.
Watch the trailer for The Odyssey here: