Something in the Water (2024, dir. Hayley Easton Street)

by | Jun 22, 2024

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 86 mins

UK Distributor: Studiocanal

UK Release Date: 21 June 2024

WHO’S IN SOMETHING IN THE WATER?

Hiftu Quasem, Lauren Lyle, Natalie Mitson, Nicole Rieko Setsuko, Ellouise Shakespeare-Hart, Laura Costa, Gabriel Prevost-Takahashi

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Hayley Easton Street (director), Cat Clarke (writer), Julie Baines (producer), Nainita Desai and Harry Peat (composers), Niels Reedtz Johansen (cinematographer), Pani Scott (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A group of friends become trapped in shark-infested waters…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON SOMETHING IN THE WATER?

Ever since Jaws made people terrified to go into the water, sharks have become one of cinema’s most reliably intimidating natural creatures, whether they’re friendly anti-fish beings in Finding Nemo or gigantic prehistoric creatures chasing Jason Statham on a jet ski in the Meg movies. Few seem to remember, though, that Jaws wasn’t actually just about the shark; it is, in fact, a tender and rather humane story of people learning to survive and cope with tragedy that so happens to feature a menacing (and frightfully mechanical) shark once in a while.

To that extent, it’s easy to see how Something in the Water is arguably closer to that original spirit of Jaws than many of the other killer shark movies that followed in its wake. Like Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster, director Hayley Easton Street’s film is much more about the humans caught up in the middle of a deadly shark attack, and how they attempt to move forward from – or, in some cases, succumb horrifically to – a terrifying situation that will haunt them for what remains of their lives.

Granted, Something in the Water is nowhere near as sophisticated or even as smart as the Spielberg classic, but when it comes to putting character over the shark-infested carnage that this film has (slightly inaccurately) been marketed as, it’s the thought that truly counts.

The film primarily takes place somewhere in the Caribbean, where Meg (Hiftu Quasem) arrives for the destination wedding of her friend Lizzie (Lauren Lyle), whilst she’s still recovering from a traumatic homophobic assault the year prior. Once there, she is awkwardly reunited with her ex Kayla (Natalie Mitson), but soon the former couple, the ever-stressed Lizzie, the groom’s sister Cam (Nicole Rieko Setsuko) and their athlete friend Ruth (Ellouise Shakespeare-Hart) all have bigger fish to fry when, during a spontaneous boat trip to a secluded island for the day, they are ferociously attacked by a shark. Their attempt to steer the boat back towards civilisation leads to the sinking of their vessel, forcing the five friends to not only try and swim their way to safety, but to also survive the wrath of the shark that’s still following them.

This is the kind of shark survival film that you’ve definitely seen before, whether it’s Open Water or The Shallows or approximately half of all movies made by the notorious Asylum. As in many of them, the shark itself is a ferocious and blood-hungry being that latches exclusively onto its human prey and their ever-tasty blood, and is crafted by some questionable computer-generated effects that often make the malfunctioning one in Jaws look more realistic (partially because, well, it’s at least there).

Meanwhile, the humans that it’s targeting have very basic characteristics, some of which become their defining feature – one of them is a runner that talks about little other than an important upcoming competition, another is endlessly high-maintenance and fretting about every detail regarding their imminent wedding, and so on – while others aren’t even fortunate to have much of a personality to call their own. All of this is stuff that we have all just come to expect from shark thrillers, and Cat Clarke’s straightforward script does not alter from the path in any discernible fashion.

However, serious credit must be given to director Street and her small band of actors for at least making the effort to try and inject a stronger shade of depth and humanity into these otherwise thin characters. Street paces the film so that a bit more time is spent with them well before they even come within the shark’s domain, with scenes of the friends conversing and trying to work through their differences landing fairly decently, even if they are thematically in shallow waters.

The performers, meanwhile, do well to give their roles a nice jolt of energy, as well as some meaningful moments of emotion that make certain figures a bit more empathetic, in light of them saying and doing some very ill-minded things that only make things worse for everyone else. It’s effective enough to where, by the time that they are forced to swim in shark-infested waters for the rest of the movie, you do care about whether or not some of them will actually survive, because there is a tenderness among these characters that does make you want to see them make it out alive, even when it’s pretty obvious that not everyone is going to see dry land again.

I wouldn’t say that Something in the Water is a particularly good movie, for it is as fairly generic as shark survival movies can get, but you can definitely feel that there is a stronger effort being put into the filmmaking than you often do see in movies like this, especially with the limited budget that they probably had. You see so many of these films where said shark is front and centre instead of the people that it’s targeting throughout, which is why a lot of them don’t have as much suspense or anticipation as Jaws does, so it’s nice to have one like this that actually attempts to give its characters a much stronger focus with the creature kept off-screen for as long as possible. Again, these are not some especially complex or even interesting humans, but the acting and direction does manage to disguise that fact better than most other similar movies with much bigger budgets.

While it might not be an especially groundbreaking shark thriller, Something in the Water has a fine enough grasp on its characters and tone that give it plenty to chew on.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Something in the Water is a largely generic shark survival thriller that is given a significant boost by direction that favours the empathetic connection between its characters over the shark itself, and performances that put some much-needed humanity into otherwise formulaic roles.

Three out of five stars

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