The Shallows

Man versus shark. Or, in this case, woman versus shark. Yes, you’ll think of Jaws, but The Shallows is different. As with Jaws, the chills and tingles come early and often.

Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) is a 20-something med school student from Texas. She is also a talented surfer. She is dropped off at an out-of-the-way beach in Mexico. It’s the beach that her late mother visited when she became pregnant with Nancy.

In the water, she chats with a couple of locals on their boards. They ride waves together. After the locals head in for the day, Nancy senses something is amiss. An injured whale floats nearby, victim of an attack by an enormous great white shark.

It is not a spoiler to reveal that the shark attacks Nancy. She survives and takes refuge atop the whale. Later she manages to move to a nearby rock, just a few hundred yards from shore. Here she uses her jewelry to close her leg wound in a scene that’s not for the squeamish.

Those of us who saw Jaws 41 summers ago knew—due to reams of advance publicity for the film—that Spielberg’s shark was a dummy. The shark in The Shallows (who gets significant screen time) appears more real.

Nancy spends the night on the rock, along with a bloodstained bird that managed to escape the shark. When the two locals return to surf the next day, she tries to warn them away but their outcome is not a happy one.

As she prepares to spend a second night on the rock with the shark nearby and the tide rising, she plots her next moves that might ensure her survival.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who directed the 2014 suspense thriller Non-Stop and last year’s Run All Night) keeps the tension level at a simmer between moments of terror. Prepare to jump a few times during the film’s compact 85-minute runtime.

Blake Lively does an admirable job of communicating her upset/horror of the situation without overplaying the role. She’s not the only human character in The Shallows, but it’s her film to win or lose and she wins.





Chasing Mavericks

“Chasing Mavericks” is filled with gorgeous shots of the ocean and its mighty waves. Watching surfers ride those waves gives an exhilarating, vicarious thrill.

Mavericks is a challenging stretch of shoreline in northern California near Half Moon Bay that, with the right weather conditions, produces dangerous monster waves. For surfers, it presents the biggest challenge on continental US shores.

Jay, a real life teenage surfer, played by Jonny Weston learns about Mavericks from his neighbor in Santa Cruz, a grownup surfer named Frosty (also a real life person), played by Gerard Butler. Frosty becomes Jay’s guru and father figure, guiding him on getting ready physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to take on Mavericks.

The story of Jay and Frosty is told with dramatic embellishments, but serves as a good framework for the surfing challenge. Along with Jay’s preparation to ride the big waves, the movie gives us side stories involving an absentee father, alcoholism, drug use, teen romance, teen bullying, death of a spouse, anger issues and such. There’s nothing groundbreaking in the onshore melodrama, but it does manage to depict Jay and Frosty as people with complicated lives away from the ocean.

You can probably guess how Jay’s quest to ride the big waves turns out. You may be surprised by Frosty’s remark to Jay just before he takes on Mavericks. A brief postscript provides more information about Jay’s life beyond his Mavericks rides.

Speaking as one who has lived near the beach (in Jacksonville, FL) and vacationed many times at the ocean, I loved all the shots filmed in and around the water. The beauty and the power of the ocean are stunning in “Chasing Mavericks” and the ocean is the reason to see it.

“Chasing Mavericks” is rated PG and is appropriate for preteens.