She is the Ocean


Surf’s up!

(2018) Documentary (Blue FoxAnna Bader, Sylvia Earle, Coco Ho, Cinta Hansel, Keala Kennelly, Andrea Moller, Bruce Hansel, Kelly Slater, Ocean Ramsey, Rose Molina, Jeanne Chesser. Directed by Inna Blokhina

 

The ocean has many feminine traits; as a species, we came from the ocean. It is literally, the mother of all life. The ocean is giving; many nations rely on her for food and commerce. The ocean is patient; it is eternal and while it is capable of great fury, it is generally calm and peaceful.

This documentary focuses on nine women (all right, eight women and a preteen girl) who all possess a deep and abiding love for the sea, whether as surfers, divers, scientists or conservationists. The women are all profiled individually, although one – young Cinta Hansel, a preteen who has ambitions to become a pro surfer – has her story woven throughout the film, most of their stories are told in individual chapters.

I’m not sure how the nine women were selected; there are certainly plenty of women who have contributed to both the science of oceanography and marine biology, as well as to the sports of surfing. Molina, a yoga instructor and artist, doesn’t really do anything ocean-related; she just likes to dive and uses the sea as a backdrop for some of her art.

The stories can be inspiring, although that of pro surfer Coco Ho seems a bit less compelling than the others – Ho comes off as extremely shallow compared to the others. Hansel, whose father Bruce was a pro surfer – doesn’t even say much during the film, it’s mostly her father who does the talking. In a documentary which is supposed to be celebrating strong, empowered women, that seems a bit odd. However, a lot of dads with daughters should take note of his absolute devotion to helping her achieve her dreams; some parents seem less willing to do that for their daughters as opposed to their sons.

Also, the various chapters aren’t really in any sort of cohesive order; in a lot of ways, it feels more like an anthology than a singular work. I think as well that the film would have benefitted from fewer subjects which would have allowed a little more depth to their stories.

=The cinematography is pretty much spot-on, and I do recommend this as something parents with daughters will want to show their little girls. This is essentially a primer in how to chase one’s dreams and that’s something young girls don’t get nearly enough of (compared to young boys). While the movie overall is flawed, at least its heart is in the right place.

REASONS TO SEE: Portrays passionate, strong, committed women.
REASONS TO AVOID: Organized in a very haphazard method.
FAMILY VALUES: There are some scenes of marine animals in peril that may be difficult for sensitive adults and children to handle.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Sylvia Earle was the first woman to be the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the history of the organization.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Fandango Now, Redbox, Vudu, Virtual Cinema
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/13/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Soul Surfer
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Bullets of Justice

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Meet Me in Montenegro


Taking that leap of faith.

Taking that leap of faith.

(2014) Romance (The Orchard) Alex Holdridge, Linnea Saasen, Rupert Friend, Jennifer Ulrich, Stuart Manashil, Mia Jacob, Ben Braun, Lena Ehlers, Kate Mackeson, Mathieu van den Berk, Deborah Ann Woll, Rod Ben Zeev, Ty Hodges, Reza Sixo Safai, Wayne Nickel, Victoria Johnston, Tomoko Nakasato, Max Pierangeli, Natalie Gelman, Brent Florence, Jules Amana, Twink Caplan. Directed by Alex Holdridge and Linnea Saasen

Romance in the age of social media is no easy proposition. Millennials have something of a cocoon around them; the anonymity of the Internet, the constant presence of electronic connection via cell phones and tablets, the somewhat impersonal mode of online dating – it’s a wonder that anyone hooks up at all.

Anderson (Holdridge) is an American screenwriter who has seen through the facade of traditional courtship and has declared that romance is dead, and from his own perspective he’s not wrong. He continues to obsess about Lina (Saasen), a Norwegian dancer he met on a trip to the Balkans with whom he had a torrid love affair, only to have her leave him a note “Let’s leave on a high note” on the beach without further explanation and thus she pirouettes out of his life.

Racking his brain as to what he might have done wrong to drive her away from him like that, his budding film career has stalled and he’s deep in credit card debt. He’s taking one last shot, this time making a science fiction film called Supercollider (an excellent name for a film by the way) and is meeting with an actor in Berlin who might be able to give him the cache needed to get the project made. He’s staying with friends Stephen (Friend), an English ex-pat whose attempt to start up a coffee shop ended up in failure, and his girlfriend Friederike (Ulrich) who is growing frustrated at Stephen’s chronic unemployment. Still, Stephen’s offhand suggestion that the two of them go to a sex club and have a four-some with another couple hasn’t fallen on deaf ears; to his horror, Friederike has called his bluff and is planning to take him up on the offer that very weekend, leaving an awkward shopping trip for Stephen and Anderson to find proper sexy attire for Stephen for the club.

While in Berlin, Anderson bumps into Lina who has been dancing in Berlin since the two broke up. He’s only there for a few days and she’s leaving herself to take up an artist residency in Budapest. They decide to spend some time together and in doing so, some of the old sparks begin to resurface. Anderson has a streak of self-sabotage in him and delivers one of the most unusual script pitches ever seen on film to the astonished actor; the rest of the weekend in Berlin would be a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Will Anderson be able to rescue himself from crushing credit card debt and resurrect his career? More importantly, will his romance with Lina work out or is romance truly dead?

This isn’t your typical romance, which is definitely a good thing. Holdridge and Saasen have a natural chemistry together which makes their onscreen romance believable, job one for any romance, comedy or otherwise. I hesitated to label this a romantic comedy; while there are definitely some funny moments, this is more of a romantic dramedy slice of life thing, a glimpse into the inner workings of a relationship without getting either too cloying or too clinical. This is real love folks, circa 2015.

Holdridge has got the anti-romantic sad-sack writer role down pat. His smile is a bit wistful, revealing some of his inner torment and uncertainty; yet confronted with the perpetrator of his self-doubt he is perfectly willing to take the plunge once again (literally). At the opening of the film, we see him doing a cliff dive into the Baltic in the title town as he narrates “This was the last time I felt truly alive.” That’s some powerful motivation right there and it feels pretty natural as romance films go.

Berlin plays a central role in the film and it is a different side of the city that we get to see. Mostly we here in the States only see Berlin in spy thrillers; we’re used to the alleyways and abandoned buildings but this is a city where people actually live and we get a chance to peek in on their lives as well. Robert Murphy delivers some gorgeous cinematography, giving the city character but also the film as well; he’s a talent to keep an eye on definitely.

The movie’s ending is a bit cheesy, which is a shame because the rest of the story is actually mature as hell, a refreshing change from normal Hollywood romances in which the emotional range is somewhat limited and the story contrived. For most of the movie, this feels like lives truly lived in and that gives us more insight into the relationship than those that feel manufactured. Even certain indie romances suffer from an over-abundance of twee cliches but thankfully that’s not the case here.

I jotted down in my notebook that this is a bit of an anti-romance in many ways. There is some speechifyin’ about the nature of romance and the philosophy of love which gives what is in essence a rather simple and charming movie an occasionally unwelcome gloss. However, the good news is that this is a solid movie that occasionally rises above the tropes of its predecessors and gives us more real insight into modern love than many other movies with bigger budgets and better-known faces. If you’re looking for a nice romantic evening with that certain indie-loving someone, this might just be a meeting you’ll want to take.

REASONS TO GO: Holdridge has the sad-sack romantic down pat. Gorgeous cinematography.
REASONS TO STAY: Ending a bit hokey. Some pretentious pontificating.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s some mild language and sexual situations.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Holdridge and Saasen not only co-starred and co-directed the film but also co-wrote it based on their own experiences.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/10/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 57% positive reviews. Metacritic: 52/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Copenhagen
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT: Terminator: Genisys