Unfolding in total silence, from a script by Wilfrid Lupano, and with absolutely breathtaking art by Grégory Panaccione, A Sea of Love inserts broad strokes into very simple lives by portraying the slapstick, satirical adventures of a fisherman and his wife as they become swept up by the fury of the sea and the wider world huddled around it.
Living a life as quiet as the pantomime of the presentation, we are introduced to an older couple preparing for the day. The man, a grizzled little fisherman, gets ready to go to his job while his wife, matronly and serving as both servant and overseer, moves him along. Getting on his boat, he confronts the giant visage of the modern world in the form of a huge ocean liner that is so big it takes no notice of him or his boat and that means danger.
One calamity leads to another and the fisherman finds himself adrift at sea with nothing but a scraggy seagull for company. He wants to get home but doesn’t have the means, and a frenzied misadventure where he crosses paths with just about any nautical scourge you can think of, from destructive weather to engulfing pollution to modern pirates, seems to take him further away from the home he is desperately trying to get back to.
The narrative doesn’t ignore his wife. At first desperately waiting for her husband to return and then stricken with the grief of believing him dead, the wife attempts to seize the moment as her chance at a new life, and by going on a cruise attempts to both bond with the master of her husband’s life and scene of his final resting place, as well as enact her own odyssey to capture a future alone.
Things don’t go smoothly or as planned, but as her misadventure careens out of control, she is able to survive on her own merits, and the simplicity of her former life becomes the mechanism that turns an international incident into a positive affirmation of her own worth.
French illustrator Panaccione is also an animator, which is no surprise considering the lively flow of his panels and the rich details that mix the emotional impact of the scenes with the literal presentation of the story, but I haven’t seen that any of his animation work matches the power and passion of what he puts down on the page here. I’ll admit to not encountering his work before, but he’s certainly got my attention now.
With its vigorous narrative and gentle intentions, A Sea of Love is a beautiful book that wows you with the cinematic artwork even as it latches onto the simple, honest emotions being explored in the relationship between the couple.
A previous story about a fisherman and his wife, told by the Grimm Brothers centuries ago, was a cautionary tale of greed and desire in which the universal order provides comeuppance, but this 21st Century version becomes a raucous-yet-soothing tale of the power of love and devotion, and their function as armor in a big, scary world.