Wednesday, March 3, 2010


(Peter Rowe, 1986)
What began as a true story is now firmly in the realm of allegory, as friendly normals Helen Shaver and Michael Hogan find themselves shipwrecked and battling not just the ocean but Hogan's batshit Christian brother. As played by Kenneth Welsh, this guy is so single-minded that he practically disappears into his faith. Setting sail without preparation or competency, hucking precious food and water into the ocean, Welsh aims to prove to atheist Hogan that God will meet the needs of the faithful, and for a while only his unreadable remoteness prevents him from turning into an outright monster. The film is so fixated on this clash of wills that it teeters on the brink of one-dimensionality, and some bad bluescreen work during the storm sequence further threatens the movie's credibility. But Hogan's amiable down-to-earth routine plays so well off Welsh's obsessive turmoil that the thematic single-mindedness frequently takes on an aspect of black comedy, and as the movie winds down, the competing ideologies are revealed as the spiritual life rafts they are, giving way to a dimensional and felt humanism. The movie stops rather than ends, pasting on an unusually alienated where-are-they-now screen; and the shark was a bad idea badly executed. As long as we're on the boat, though, the focus and control of the filmmaking here is a pleasant surprise.

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