In A Sea Change, retired high school teacher Sven Huseby learns that the oceans are becoming more acidic because they’ve absorbed much of the carbon dioxide we’ve pumped into the atmosphere. He’s worried at the prospect of an ocean without fish – not for himself but for his grandson Elias, a mischievous, whip-smart 5-year-old who loves the sea. Huseby sets off on a journey to learn more about ocean acidification, talking with scientists, lawyers, alternative-energy entrepreneurs, and artists. He sends letters for Elias to read when he’s older and can more fully appreciate his grandfather’s quest.
The documentary is a solid primer on the science of ocean acidification, a problem that gets less attention than its twin issue, global warming. One of Huseby’s strengths is that he doesn’t preach what he knows but rather learns along with us. We can relate when we see him squinting in front of his computer at home, Googling keywords like “CO2 + H2O.” During interviews, he comes across as an eager, enthusiastic pupil.
But if A Sea Change only focused on science and facts, it might appeal to our brains but not our hearts. Fortunately, it’s anchored in the connection between Huseby and his grandson; it’s one of the most touching depictions of the grandchild-grandparent relationship in recent filmmaking. When we see the pair happily fishing together at the film’s end, there’s a sense of heartache at what could be lost but also hope that we can save it.