Director: Simon Baker
Starring: Simon Baker, Elizabeth Debicki, Samson Coulter, Ben Spence
Runtime: 1 hr 55 min
What It Is: In the 1970s, two thirteen-year-old boys Pikelet and Loonie are passionate about surfing and find themselves wrapped up in the life and teachings of the complicated, washed-up pro-surfer Sando.
What We Think: In short, this is a mixed bag. While respectable as Baker’s directorial debut, the film’s major sin is of its slow-burn pacing. There’s a definite lack of drama throughout much of the first and second acts (making the film initially appear very chill and very simply slice-of-life), but when the central conflict finally kicks in, the film becomes infinitely more watchable. From its muted color palette to its strangely morose and sentimental score, all comes together and makes sense once you get to that point in the film. The problem is, is that it takes much too long to get there. Otherwise, it is very well shot, especially considering the impressive surfing scenes and the rightful taking advantage of Australia’s gorgeous views and vistas. Despite the thinness of the story in much of the duration of this coming-of-age flick, important themes (some of which are surprisingly VERY adult) are still apparent and worthy of mention. The acting all around is convincing on part of Baker as Sando and Coulter and Spence as the two boys. Debicki gives an intriguing performance as Sando’s bitter and handicapped spouse Eva. To have better framed these performances, the high point of drama should have really been more in focus throughout the film, though as a whole, the film satisfactory floats its messages across.
Our Grade: C-, The inconsistent and at times dull tone definitely, definitely detracts from the story, as well as random events that, while meant to contribute to the mood of the film or dedication to the novel its based on, end up having no use to the story or characters later on and make no sense. While I applaud the tackling and even the delivery of the themes featured (such as toxic relationships, coping with fear, etc.), the wait for something to happen led to a much less impactful payoff, and therefore, a much less memorable film.