Sundance Film Festival 2023: ‘Christopher at Sea’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There is no right way to live life. People continue to discover themselves day after day, and the important thing about life is that you grow. In the short animated film Christopher at Sea, writer-director Tom C. Brown went on a journey on a cargo ship that eventually became a sexual awakening for him. Brown needed the inspiration to write and wanted to do something completely different. He doesn’t advise going on a transatlantic cargo ship adventure, but for the sake of art, he did what he had to do to make a beautifully animated project. Not only is the animation beautiful, but the texture and colours combine to make a dreamlike sequence of a shift in the universe. 

The short film is a nautical thriller that follows Christopher (James Potter) as he embarks on a transatlantic voyage on a cargo ship with the hopes of finding out what attracts so many men to sea, sending him on a journey filled with solitude, fantasy, and obsession. At first, the film starts slow and sets the tone for this long journey. It draws you in with the quiet, reflective moments as Christopher learns the way of the sea. Being at sea makes you sit with your thoughts, which can be good or bad. This idea manifested in Brown’s head about seven years ago, and he wanted to write a romance. He heard about an artist’s residency on board a cargo ship called “23 Days at Sea” and found it interesting. So the idea of a romance aboard a cargo ship was born, 

“After that, I was obsessed with the aesthetic of the cargo ship. And the kind of functional industrial design opposed to nature and the beauty of the sea. I thought that would be a cool backdrop for a romance film. Um, so yeah, that’s where it started. After my first piece of concept art for it. I was looking up at these pictures on the wall I had of these beautiful boys and I was like, wait, maybe the reason I’m telling this queer love story is probably because I’m gay. And I had this kind of like, revelation, and then the film kind of started to be more about that as well.” 

– Director Tom C. Brown, Christopher at Sea

Christopher at Sea is a beautifully animated short film that puts love and life into perspective. When you take chances, you learn a lot about yourself, and that’s why a change of pace is always good. It’s important to try different things and push yourself into new experiences. You may turn out to be a completely different person and surprise yourself. Brown believes that through the medium of animation, there’s an entire world of opportunity, and it was the only way to authentically explore Christopher’s journey the way he did, “You can create something visually emotive that you wouldn’t be able to do in live-action.” It’s a gorgeous animated project that thrusts you into the depths of Christopher’s world while trying to find himself at sea. 


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