Under The Sea
In a year of big-budget disappointments it’s nice to see the success of the little film that could. The Shallows is the small-time critical success you’re meant to treat yourself with once you’ve filled your pallet with larger scale films. Considering the offerings of 2016 thus far, I say skip the main meal and go straight for dessert. The Shallows has this amazing duality to it. At eighty-six minutes there should be more, but there doesn’t need to be. At once it’s all there, but at the same time it’s not and I can’t figure out how a film that constantly professes yet lacks so much can still be satisfying.
Let’s face it: the plot is thin. It nudges at Nancy’s thematic, character building back-story but it really doesn’t add that much more to the films events. She’s dealing with personal tribulations by surfing on a beach in Mexico. Then there’s a killer shark, a suspenseful stopwatch and seagull tagging along for the ride. The thing is Nancy’s tussle with the shark is a representation of her inability to confront her issues. Further to this, the mysteriously unnamed beach being an untouched haven wants to lend to the films themes, but nothing ever comes from either of them. This whole particular aspect is underdeveloped so there’s a disconnection between character, setting and action. They never truly meet and they never entirely correlate.
And somehow the film feels complete, like there was nothing more to add. Funnily enough this incomplete tapestry is what fuels discussion. Without it it’d be another throwaway scary animal film. You could throw it in with the rest of the blockbuster season and think nothing more of it. But The Shallows basically taunts its audience by advertising its incomplete development. It gives you something to wrap your head around, but then again it’s not like anyone seems entirely concerned. Jump on Google and you’ll see a million people focused more on the name of the beach than the films shortcomings.
So The Shallows lives within this critical purgatory. It’s not bad and it’s not brilliant. My guess is it can be surmised with the casual utterance of ‘it’s good, but it’s not that good’. They could have gone the whole hog (shark?) but The Shallows doesn’t bother delving the depths. It sticks to the shallows.
And yes, I deliberately wrote that last sentence.