Quick Hit: Filled with unnecessary flash, this film is unsure of where to take it.
Since Blake Lively did Gossip Girl and Green Lantern, her movies have just been all over the map. The Shallows is probably one of her more critically successful, though I thought it could have used some improvements. The one thing she doesn’t shy away from is taking roles where she is going to be a messy character, and for that, I applaud her. I just wish this movie wasn’t as bad as it was.
Lively plays Gina, a young woman living in Thailand with her husband James (Jason Clarke). The catch here is that she was in an accident as a child, leaving her with a very fuzzy, clouded view of the world. Her doctors give her hope that a new surgery and some steroid drops will give her the chance to see again. And indeed, the surgery seems a success – Gina’s sight improves, and some of the best scenes in the movie are the ones that feature her reacting to her newly rediscovered sense.
But alas, those are few, before the story gets muddled and confused as it tries to decide what it wants to be. I’m all for figuring that out, even during the movie itself, but the end result here has no idea. Is it a deconstruction of marriage, one that fills in the holes between couples with easily chiseled mortar? Or is it a thriller where we already know what’s occurring? You could even ask if it’s an art piece on the effect that your visual sense has on your sexuality.
There’s a LOT of that in there for sure. The movie starts with a kaleidoscope effect full of Lively and Clarke in their marital throes. And it’s something the film keeps coming back to, so it’s obviously of importance to director Marc Forster (who also did the most recent Christopher Robin surprisingly). We meet Gina’s hypersexual sister and brother-in-law, we endure a strange trip into a literal peep show, and we have an extremely awkward scene where Gina and James attempt to tape themselves. It’s this scene in particular that Forster seems fascinated with… but it’s not a very good scene, in the way it’s shot or even the acting in it.
Clarke, who I’ve always enjoyed in films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Mudbound, and even the maligned Public Enemies, is fairly inconsistent here. I think some of this has to do with the plot (see above), but it’s frustrating to watch a good actor somehow lose his charisma here. Lively, for her part, gives a solid transformation – when she regains her site she’s physically different, be it her body language, her physical look, or other characteristics.
There’s also several hyper stylized scenes throughout the movie – I already mentioned the kaleidoscope effect, but there’s also flashbacks of a tunnel, extreme close-ups, shots of lively swimming in a pool – and they all serve to bring the viewer out of the experience. There’s also a scene in a club full of lights that seems pulled straight from the scene in Downsizing where Damon gets high.
All in all, I wish the movie would have known what it was trying to do. In the end, I can only give it a generous “D-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"