The film Open Water presents an interesting view of basic human conditions and survival that’s very difficult to categorize as entertainment. In this setting, the sound of another human being suffering triggers emotions that you don’t usually encounter in a theater. It’s not a thriller, not a drama, just an experience loosely based on the disappearance of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who were stranded near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1998.
In the film, a young married couple, Daniel and Susan, are left behind on their vacation. Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan, create a realistic, non married couple you can identify with. They have the same issues as other people and they don’t have any extraordinary traits of skills. They deal with wide range of experiences ranging from a casual game of Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon to praying the “Our Father” to attacking each other personally.
The film was written and directed by Chris Kentis and produced by his wife Laura Lau – both are avid divers who filmed Open Water with digital video in their spare time on weekends and holidays in the Bahamas. The varied camerawork and cinematography emit a very realistic feel, but occasional water droplets on camera ruin the illusion. The foreshadowing events build fairly well and the climax breaks traditional film clichés. Kentis establishes Daniel and Susan’s go-go lifestyle well in the beginning and continues to use that element and they gradually grow more desperate in their attempt to survive.
The realism created by shooting with digital video becomes the strength of the film. No special effects were used so you can really interact with the situation. The stranded couple does not have extraordinary or redeeming qualities because filmmakers what the audience in the water with them so they’re emotionally attached and invested in the story. “I don’t know what’s worse – seeing them or not seeing them,” Susan shouts.
Some basic assurances like a flare gun (waterproof of course – if they exist) or personal GPS system instead a sense of direction or logic could’ve solved this situation. If you’re invested in the story, you’ll probably shape your own theories and critique the couple’s decision making throughout the 79 minute film.
This realistic film has good closure, but leaves you longing for some surprises and a few more thrills. It’s probably better to view this film without any expectations. Recommended with reservations (**1/2) and rated R for language and some nudity.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler