Written and Directed by Chris Kentis
Every summer there is one small, independent film that beats the odds and becomes the must-see film that everyone is talking about. This year Open Water is trying to be that film. It garnered a great deal of buzz at Sundance back in January and reviewers are raving about it; however, I have no idea what film they saw because I have never seen a film more poorly presented.
The visuals were absolutely horrific. I haven’t seen a film that looked this bad since I found some ham in the back of my fridge that had been long forgotten. It was shot on video and transferred to film, so it didn’t have a fair chance to look good from the start. The camera was constantly moving, which is understandable when shooting on the water, but the budget appears to have been so low that they couldn’t afford a tripod when they were on land. Every scene is shot with the camera being handheld in very tight close-ups, which a first-year film student knows doesn’t work well together. This causes the images to be jittery and constantly moving around, leaving nothing to focus on. Instead of giving the sense of floating in the water, the viewer feels like they have snorted some bad speed.
It’s too bad that the director has completely ruined the experience of watching the film because there are some very good aspects to it. The story is surprisingly smart and keeps you guessing all the way until its believable conclusion. It’s about a couple that goes scuba diving in the Caribbean and gets left out in the ocean by a charted boat for almost 24 hours. They can’t see any land so they have no choice but to tread water and hope they will get rescued while dealing with the ocean’s current and marine life. We also see the characters go through the stages of grief as they deny their situation, get angry at each other for being in the situation, become depressed and eventually accept their fate. The plot and dialogue are so good that this would have made a great radio play. The writer should be mad about the director ruining the presentation of his well-written story, but unlucky for him, they are the same guy.
There were other problems with the direction. Scenes didn’t always cut together well. A few times the film would cut to some type of lizard when they needed a transition and obviously had no other usable footage. Also, there is a scene when in the middle of the night the film cuts from the couple in the water to a group dancing back on the island then back to the couple. It made no sense.
Another scene that made no sense, other than to help with foreign sales and late night Cinemax showings, is a scene where the lead actress, Blanchard Ryan, is nude in the couple’s hotel room. I enjoy nudity and she has a very nice body, but it came at such an odd moment that the audience was caught so off guard by it they laughed. The scene should have worked up to her getting naked. It made sense since it’s a hot tropical night and the couple starts to kiss, but cutting right to it was one of the many examples where the film knocks the viewer out of the experience of watching the film.
The acting was good, but I’m referring to the character moments between each other and not dealing with the sharks. The actors were really out in the water with the sharks, only wearing shark-proof suits under their wet suits. That’s probably real fear they experience not pretend fear. When you see the sharks swim by, the audience does get startled and jump, but they aren’t involved with the story. It’s like watching Steve Irwin from The Crocodile Hunter jump in with the crocs and snakes. Watching Shark Week on The Discovery Channel will provide the same chills and thrills as this movie.
WARNING: If after my review you are still compelled to go to see what all the fuss is about, don’t sit close to the screen. For those of you who get motion sickness, you are going to want to skip the film or at least wait until it comes to home video where it is sure to look slightly better.