Nancy (Blake Lively) has been looking for a beach in Mexico where her mother surfed when she was pregnant with her. Since Nancy neither knows the exact location of the beach, nor its name, this has proved to be difficult, but she was finally successful. Leaving her best friend in the hotel, a local (Óscar Jaenada) drives Nancy to the beach so she can get in a good day’s surfing. There is practically no one there and Nancy enjoys the water – until she’s actually all alone and attacked by a shark who cuts off her way back to shore.
There is not a boring minute in The Shallows, although the film does have a few other issues. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it for the most part.
The film moves along at a brisk pace and even though most events aren’t exactly unforseeable, it manages to keep the tension high and the audience hooked. They achieve that in part by making sure that we know who Nancy is before she enters the ocean, cleverly using social media and video calls that are projected over the actual goings-on. It’s not the first time that social media was integrated in that way, but they do it very nicely, only begging the question wht kind of data plan Nancy has to be able to afford all that videocalling abroad; and how hidden that beach actually is when reception is that great everywhere.
A much less obvious mean to keep us engaged, but no less effective for that, was Nancy’s companion, Steven Seagull. Starting with the name, that bird simply provided the necessary breathers and laughs inbetween.
But the film doesn’t pull of everything quite as nicely. There are quite a few scenes where Blake Lively’s body is so blatantly objectified and basically fucked by the camera, it actually pulled my out of the film. The fact that she is a competent, kick-ass protagonist allowed her own “woman vs. nature” fight [I’m struggling to find examples of any other narrative where this happens, and I want more of it], only makes those moments of male gaze and camera caress even weirder.
There’s also the moment where a drunken dude finds Nancy’s stuff on the beach and sees her obviously in distress in the water and would rather take her phone and run instead of helping her, which just plays into racial stereotypes against Latinxs a little too much.
But worst of all, in the end the film not only jumps the shark, they set it on fire and skewered it. Literally. It simply got too silly for its own good, which is esecially disappointing because the film tried so hard to give at least the impression of realism until then. With that ending, they lost me. But at least up until then, I was enjoying myself very much.