Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Shallows


I have to say it took considerable courage for me to watch this movie. I have a real phobia of sharks. This is called galeophobia, or selachophobia. I realize it is totally irrational, even though I can’t swim. I mean, the last time I was in water where sharks might be present was in about 1960, and I don’t ever intend to do that again, so the only way I can get in trouble is if a land shark comes knocking at my door, pretending to be delivering a candygram. I’m a sucker for candygrams.

Most of the time I can master it. I don’t break out in a sweat when I see a picture of a shark, nor do I have any trouble seeing one in an aquarium. But when I watched Jaws I actually found myself lifting my feet off the floor sometimes. The terrifying part about sharks is that they are unseen. When I see a shot of someone neck deep in water and I know there is a shark down there, the tension is unbearable.

Here, Blake Lively is a surfer girl (and medical student) who goes to an enormously beautiful isolated beach in Mexico. She foolishly goes in by herself, since her surfing friend didn’t show up earlier that day. There are only two other men in the water. Those guys leave, and she goes out again. To find the rotting carcass of a humpback whale. That’s where the great white shark gets her. She is badly bitten on the leg, barely makes it to the dead humpback, and then a little later to a tiny rock that will be underwater at high tide. It’s too far to swim to the beach without getting eaten.

I love little movies like this. I’m sure there was a substantial budget for CGI, since all of the scenes on the rock were done in the studio, with greenscreens. (The beach was actually in Australia!) It becomes a game of wits. Not that the shark has any, but he has a huge natural advantage in the water, and he keeps getting drawn by her blood in the water. She has to stop the bleeding, she has to sew up the wound, she has to figure out a way to get to the beach more or less intact …

I will only say that the outcome is better than in that other recent movie about being in the water with sharks, Open Water. This one is made up, while that one was horribly real. I thought it was very good.