‘Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. 24/7,” bemoans one young Northern Irish man to his mates. “If it comes on [TV], I just go on my phone.” Annabel Verbeke’s piece of amiable, breeze-shooting psychogeography whiles away a few afternoons on and around the Carlingford Lough ferry, which crosses the invisible Ireland-Northern Ireland border. Anxieties about the possibility of a hard border raise the spectre of old enmities, but the general excitement over spotting one frontier-oblivious local – Finn the dolphin – shows there is no sectarian divide a few aquatic somersaults can’t cross.
Amid the various day-trippers, kite-flyers, golfers, BMX bandits, farmers, hearse drivers and other punters eavesdropped on by Verbeke, you get the impression that she herself may think borders are arbitrary and meaningless. As a group of Asian tourists comment, borders obscure the similarities, or sameness, of the people on either side. The two northern gents chatting outside a Protestant church – one of whom comments pointedly on how Dublin is becoming “cosmopolitan” – presumably don’t agree. Ethnocentrism is evidently a hardy plant. One southerner, who approves of multiculturalism and refuses to recognise the border, still says: “The British will never be able to take my Irishness away from me.”
Peregrinating around the question of cultural identity, Four Seasons in a Day turns in circles that arguably get a little too loose, though the detours are often instructional on other fronts. One conscientious Irish farmer’s son ponders the automation of agriculture and helps his dad out with the potato harvest, while his northern counterparts play farming simulators and eschew the horny-handed life: “It’s a bit of a bane, isn’t it?” Verbeke captures these shifting tides in chunky, characterful compositions that – whatever the differences – capably demonstrate that the Irish people’s oral genius is in rude health on both sides.