“The Shallows” Is A Female Empowering “Jaws”

By Scott Kurland

Film: The Shallows
Starring: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, and Sedona Legge
Rated: PG-13
Director: Jaume Collett- Serra

For the longest time I tried to avoid seeing shark movies. I know what you’re thinking, “Scott are there really that many shark films?” Yes, yes there are and trust me when I say that only one is memorable. Its a movie that contains the haunting musical chords of “Dun nah, dun nah, dun nah, dun nah” and the line “we’re gonna need a bigger boat.” For every good movie like “Jaws”, we get ten films like “Deep Blue Sea”. Every now and then however, a film comes along that surprises us. That brings us to this week’s film “The Shallows,” Blake Lively’s one-woman-show of a surfer stranded on a rock that's being circled by a bloodthirsty shark. Let’s find out if it’s any good shall we?

“The Shallows” takes place on a hidden beach in Mexico where we meet the sun-and-surf-loving Nancy (Blake Lively). Nancy is a former med student taking a break from school after suffering a crisis of faith rooted in the death of her mother. Nancy comes to the beach in the hopes of surfing the same waves her mother did thirty years ago. There is, however, one problem; this beautiful beach happens to be the hunting ground of a great white shark. After being attacked by the shark, Nancy finds herself stranded on large rock with a wounded seagull as her only companion. Alone and losing a lot of blood, Nancy must find a way to defeat the shark and return to the mainland which lies just out of reach.

“The Shallows” is a very strong film mainly due to the performance of Blake Lively. It’s amazing how I already reviewed her husband in “Deadpool” and now I’m reviewing her in a similar career-defining role. Lively has that girl-next-door likability and is able to convey so much pain and suffering while trying to stay optimistic. Lively, reminds me of a young Laura Dern who, in my opinion, is one of the greatest actors of our generation. Lively is carrying this entire movie on her back. The entire film depends on whether or not we want to see her survive and I’m happy to say that we most certainly do. This leads to one of the most epic battles of a human fighting a shark we’ve seen since “Jaws.”

This is a gorgeous film. The cinematography is beautiful, the CGI is realistic but, most importantly, the story works on so many levels. This is a great story, not just about making it through a shark attack, but its a great survival story in general. That is, however, just one layer here. This entire film is a metaphor of how you cope with the loss of a loved one. The heart of this film centers around Nancy having to move past the death of her mother. This is where the film gets really interesting in terms of symbolism. You’d think that Nancy represents herself in this movie, but that is not the case. The seagull symbolizes Nancy and her internal struggle. The shark, of course, is death (or cancer) and Nancy is meant to symbolize her mother; the person Nancy longs to be. Nancy goes through the five phases of death, but she also shows us how hard a person will fight when faced with terminal diagnosis.

Director Jaume Collett-Serra is usually known for bigger budget action films like “Non-Stop” and “Unknown”. In a nut shell, Collett-Serra is the guy who directs films where Liam Nesson gets his things taken away and then he gets them back. “The Shallows” is a break from his usual direction, and I’m all for seeing him direct smaller films like this one. The action is spectacular, the story is heartfelt, and it’s nice to have a strong female character that will inspire a lot of teenage girls. Yes, teenage girls. Like “Jaws,” this isn’t a hard R film. "The Shallows" is a PG-13 film and I think that works in their favor because more people can see it.

“The Shallows” is a wonderful summer movie with a great lead actress, strong sense of pacing and direction but, most importantly, it’s a film that secretly will inspire hope to its audience. We all love a good survival story and “The Shallows” has that in spades. Do yourself a favor and see “The Shallows.” See it on the biggest screen you can because you won’t be sorry. This is a stellar film starring a very talented young actress. 

scott kurlandComment