‘The Great Seduction’ (2023) Review: Netflix Presents A Warm Tale Of A Fading Island Trying To Survive

There is beauty in undiscovered places, which brings down the harsh walls one has built around oneself. Sure, seduction may not be the first word that comes to mind when describing the growing fascination with a place, but it surely gets close to describing the feeling. The Great Seduction, the new Netflix movie directed by Celso R. Garcia, tries to capture the childlike nature of the people living in a forgotten world. He places that in contrast to modern cities, where naivety and innocence seem to have been lost.

The Great Seduction tells the story from the point of view of the people living on a small island named Santa Maria, where people are desperate for jobs, and the only way for this fishing island to survive is the new fishing plant that is going to be set up if and only if certain conditions are met. One of the conditions is that the island must have a permanent doctor. Thus, the plot begins. How does this town, which seems to have a cunning but sweet leader in German, convince a doctor to leave his comfortable life in the city and move permanently all the way to Santa Maria?

After a lot of planning and plotting, German decides to send letters to all the doctors he can find in the yellow book, asking them to come to Santa Maria. The place hasn’t had a permanent doctor for the past 30 years, and people are left to their own resources to seek treatment. The nearest hospital was five hours away, and fortunately, there hadn’t been a case where someone needed immediate medical attention. But the fact is that nobody cared that much about it. The fishing plant was the priority.

Luckily, Mateo, a doctor, gets sent to Santa Maria for 30 days as a punishment for his indecent behavior. Now, the island had a chance. All they had to do was make Mateo fall in love with Santa Maria. Not just love; Mateo had to be seduced to ‘marry’ the place and live his life here. How hard could it be, right? After all, Santa Maria was a paradise! Well, at least according to German. His girlfriend had left for the city, and so had his elder brother as well. Yet German was convinced that there was no better place in the world than Santa Maria. His conviction was based totally on subjective reality; maybe that’s why the whole island had to be part of an elaborate lie, which was sold to Mateo for the singular purpose of ‘seducing’ him.

There are many stories where someone enters an unknown place. We see the town or village through this character’s lens. One thing to consider is that the uncharted territory for this character has its own history and unique individuals who have been living there and who have their own way of looking at things. The Great Seduction taps into this point of view. Often, in romantic comedies, one tries to ‘make’ someone fall in love, and the more they do it, the more it pushes the other one away. It’s a similar case here. There are ethical dilemmas when trying to make someone fall in love with you. Was it based on truth or a lie? Here, Mateo was fed so many lies that it was hard to keep score. German represents the person who will do anything to protect what he loves. He loved Santa Maria, and the island would have been finished without the fishing plant.

On one level, The Great Seduction destroys the myth of the all-good villager. If people from the cities can urinate upon their senior’s car, as Mateo did, after which he got sent to Santa Maria, then the people of Santa Maria can at least listen to his private conversations! Yes, the comparisons are absurd, and the residents of this small island are a little cheeky, but they all do what they do for a cause—to save the island. Apart from these idiosyncratic characters, the old-school comedic gags work wonderfully in the movie. The scenes where the two ladies listened to Mateo’s private conversations with his girlfriend or where German moved the entire population of Santa Maria from the restaurant to the church in a matter of seconds were quite hilarious. But the film’s tone required the funny scenes to be balanced by poignant ones. This is what I think The Great Seduction lacked. The hearts of the islanders were full of sadness, and that sadness wasn’t fully explored. Maybe there was the fear of being too sentimental, but in my opinion, it would only heighten the drama.

The island of Santa Maria was a character in The Great Seduction, and it was very well explored. An island is fading away with only a population of 110 remaining. It was losing its vitality and needed a doctor to revive it. Seduction happens when mystery and vitality meet. The island had neither. So, it wasn’t really seduction, but a cry for revitalization. If only neediness and insecurity were a turn-on, right? So, of course, German and others had to lie, but as is the case in rom-coms as well, the truth is the clincher. The truth is what must make or break the relationship. The Great Seduction handled this aspect of the story pretty well.

The characters’ traits are exaggerated for comedic effect, but the essence of truth shines forth. The self-pity is totally absent, which was the freshest part of the movie. The islanders don’t wallow in it to gain sympathy from the outside world. They take action, and even if some deception is involved, the honor is still intact. Maybe that’s what we all should do when trying to ‘seduce’ someone—not act like have-nots. Take action and be ready to face the truth, and if things don’t work out, at least you tried with all your heart. If it does work out, now there’s a story to make a film about! The Great Seduction may not be the best movie of its kind, but it’s a deep dive into the minds of idiosyncratic characters and their lifestyle. It could have been much more than that, though. It could have been a portrait of the fleeting sense of calmness as we move forward into a postmodern world.

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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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The Great Seduction, the new Netflix movie directed by Celso R. Garcia, tries to capture the childlike nature of the people living in a forgotten world.'The Great Seduction' (2023) Review: Netflix Presents A Warm Tale Of A Fading Island Trying To Survive