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Movie Review

'Open Water' is a flawed but enthralling

"Open Water" is a small indie film that, while flawed, — is intensely effective in that it touches on our deepest atavistic fears — of abandonment and isolation. It does this using a very simple yet powerful — premise: a young couple, leading busy, successful lives, go to the Bahamas — on a SCUBA diving vacation. Joining a group of some 20 divers they charter — a boat equipped with tanks and gear out into the Caribbean to spend an — afternoon diving. We see them underwater, gliding along, marveling at — the abundance and beauty of sea life.

When they surface, the dive boat is gone.

It is a stunning moment, one that is so far beyond their — expectations that at first they can only experience shock and denial. — The boat has to be there, they tell themselves, they have simply misjudged — their location, drifted on the currents. In fact, in the distance there — are two boats, but so far away it would takes hours to swim to either — one. There must be an explanation.

Who among us can't reach into the past and find a moment — where we felt completely abandoned and alone. Perhaps it happened in a — department store, or at a carnival or on a hike, that moment when you — turned around and expected to see a parent or a sibling and he or she — is gone. The rising panic, the fear and sense of isolation can be overwhelming. — It is the equivalent of a child getting up in the dead of night and walking — through the house and finding no one is home (think of the subtext to — the wildly successful film, "Home Alone").

The dry-mouth apprehension is primeval, perhaps a manifestation — of our genetic imprinting wherein to be alone in the wild meant almost — certain death.

As a species, we have done everything possible to insulate — ourselves from the vagaries and dangers of the natural world. We rest — comfortably on top of the food chain; we go to great lengths to protect — ourselves from weather and the threat of other animals. Sheltered, urbanized, — domesticated, we are all but oblivious to the natural forces in play. — Until we are faced with circumstances that suddenly strip away our very — tenuous insularity and we are confronted with a world that completely — disregards our status. We quickly learn that we are, in fact, a frail — and ill-equipped species when the chips are truly down.

It is these emotions that "Open Water" touches on to great — effect. What would we do if left behind in an ocean that was so lovely — and inviting and seemingly benign and is now so vast and ominous and even — malevolent. Where the food chain has suddenly become inverted. Where we — are in great peril.

This abiding sense of distress is what we experience on — a visceral level in this film as the camera floats on the water's surface — along with the couple, the omniscient observer, recording in an almost — documentary way their reactions, their strategizing, their unwillingness — to consider the magnitude of their situation.

It is an effective point of view and one that is riveting — from the outset, relying on and giving credit to our imaginations where — most films go to great lengths to leave nothing out. "Open Water" never — resorts to special effects or CGI insertions. Rather, it relies on our — ability to understand, implicitly, that what is below the placid surface — of the water is likely more terrifying than anything the filmmakers could — disclose.

The only problem with a film of such high consequences — is how to conclude the drama. What ending could possibly be fashioned — that would sustain the realism and yet leave the audience with some sense — of satisfaction or at least completeness. The sharp and well defined conflict, — which grows ever more perilous, must in some way be resolved. How that — is done is dicey and the film's ending may leave some feeling a bit let — down.