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Open Water: Picking the Scab of Despair

First of all, the poster for this movie is perfection. It captures the hopelessness of the couple adrift in the deep dark sea, while god-only-knows is approaching them, unseen, from the inky depths. So many shark movies have ludicrous or misleading posters, but this one fucking nails it. Look at it, folks. Just look at it, damn you!!

Well, what about the movie? Personally, I love it. By “love it” I mean that it tears open a hole of terror and depression in my psyche that I never knew I had. It’s super scary. And being a diver, I always have the fleeting thought that I might get left behind by the boat, or I might get disoriented and swim off into the ethers. So this movie picks that scab very nicely.

Loosely based on the true story of the Lonergans who were left behind in the Great Barrier Reef in 1998, this retelling focuses on Daniel and Susan who are vacationing in the Carribean. Now, no one on earth knows what actually happened to the Lonergans since they were never found and are presumed dead. Were they eaten by sharks? Possibly. But that sounds like a much more compelling plot for a movie than drowning, dying of dehydration or arguing with each other to death. We will never know the truth but goddamn if this movie ain’t one of the best explorations of deep water despondence I’ve ever seen. 

A confusion with the dive boat count leads to the abandonment of the unlucky couple. A dickhead who forgot his mask bamboozles a guy into diving with him, and they get counted twice. Meanwhile, Daniel and Susan are still out there playing with a moray eel. The mood of the couple starts off a little confused but optimistic that the boat will still pick them up. Little do they know that the boat was long gone and none the wiser. The wretched situation begins to rear its ugly head as the hours drag on … and the sharks begin to show up. 

The movie uses footage of real live sharks doing real live sharky things. This is very refreshing for a shark movie. Nothing is overdone or overly dramatized. It’s what could really happen. And bless those actors, they act like how real live people would in this bleak situation. They vacillate between panic, anger, blame throwing, hopefulness and pure love. 

There are some terrifying moments in this film that give me goosebumps. Susan and Daniel fall asleep and drift apart. Susan is laying on her back as sharks glide just beneath her. Awakening in shock, she reunites with Daniel only to discover that her leg was bitten while she slept. YIKES! Another one is when Daniel looks through his mask at the swarm of sharks surrounding them. After he whips his head out of the water, Susan states “I don’t know what’s worse, seeing them or not seeing them” to which Daniel quickly replies “Seeing them!”

Daniel is bitten in the calf and night falls upon the couple. A storm passes through which provides dreadful flashes of lightning that illuminate the pitch dark only to give us glimpses of thrashing fins and dejected and horrified faces. 

By this time in the film, someone finally figures out that they left these poor souls behind and a rescue is initiated. But they have drifted so far that it may take a very long time to find them. Plus, Daniel and Susan have NO CLUE that anyone is looking for them, The atrocious predicament seems terminal for them. Then, Daniel dies. After holding and kissing him for a while, Susan lets his body float away. The corpse is tugged and shredded by sharks and disappears under the waves. Now Susan is a sitting duck in a mass of frenzied teeth. She quietly and calmly removes her BCD and air tank, then her mask, and then she willingly disappears underwater never to surface again. DAYUMM! Imagine how demoralized one must be to do that? 

Regardless of the authenticity to the actual plight of the real life Lonergans, this movie is a must see for anyone who likes to be slapped in the face with crippling ennui. And the woman just has to be named Susan! Pardon me, while I curl up in my closet, suck my thumb, and try to put my traumatized mind back together. 

Director: Chris Kentis

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Hulu

2 thoughts on “Open Water: Picking the Scab of Despair

  1. Good review! This movie scared me. Nightmares. I like seeing the bottom of the pool. Endless blue darkness beneath me, nope!

  2. I agree with Priscilla’s comments. I will never step foot in an ocean again.

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