SOMETHING IN THE WATER movie poster | ©2024 StudioCanal/Samuel Goldwyn Films

SOMETHING IN THE WATER movie poster | ©2024 StudioCanal/Samuel Goldwyn Films

Rating: R
Stars: Hiftu Quasem, Lauren Lyle, Natalie Mitson, Nicole Rieko Setsuko, Ellouise Shakespeare-Hart, Gabriel Prevost-Takahashi
Writer: Cat Clark
Director: Hayley Easton Street
Distributor: StudioCanal/Samuel Goldwyn Films
Release Date: May 3, 2024

SOMETHING IN THE WATER brings together two genres that aren’t normally mashed together like peanut butter and chocolate. One is the pre-wedding interactions of a bride-to-be and her besties prior to the big day. The other is the big threat of the open ocean, including sharks.

We begin with British couple Meg (Hiftu Quasem) and Kayla (Natalie Mitson), who are happy together until they are assaulted in a gay-bashing incident.

A year later, they’ve broken up. Meg in particular is still traumatized by the near-fatal attack. However, they are brought back together by the impending wedding of old friend Lizzie (Lauren Lyle). Lizzie is about to marry Dominic (Gabriel Prevost-Takahashi), the brother of another old friend, American daredevil Cam (Nicole Rieko Setsuko). Even-tempered Ruth (Ellouise Shakespeare-Hart) is the fifth member of the group. They’ve all clearly been bonded since college, if not before.

Lizzie has decided on a destination wedding in the Caribbean. Cam thinks it’s a great idea for the five women to take a large motorboat out to an uninhabited island.

For a while, the script by Cat Clark has us wondering exactly how this is going to go wrong. At the same time, we see the places where the women have long-term friction, including Cam’s lack of forethought and Lizzie’s self-centeredness.

It feels like these are real relationships. Under Hayley Easton Street’s direction, we get the sense that the women really care about one another and want to keep each other safe, which in turn makes us invested in what happens to them.

Street is good at both mounting tension and jump scares. SOMETHING IN THE WATER also thankfully has sharks behaving like real animals, so that we don’t have one obsessed creature that in reality wouldn’t be chasing humans for great distances. We just have an infinite ocean that holds more than one shark.

These sharks don’t look wholly consistent across overhead, underwater and full-face views, but this isn’t so jarring as to seriously interfere with the proceedings.

SOMETHING IN THE WATER at times recalls 2003’s OPEN WATER, which dealt with the terror of its title. Of course, there are sharks in SOMETHING IN THE WATER, but there is also simply the frightening disorientation of being in an environment that is continually moving, with no destination in sight.

There are also the dangers of exhaustion, dehydration and sunburn (kudos to the realistic progression of skin damage by makeup designer Francesca Van Der Feyst).

Quasem’s Meg is our focal point, and she ably maintains our attention and our sympathies. Mitson likewise is winning as Kayla, and the other performers handle their characters with dexterity. All of them show enormous fortitude in dealing with what look like tough physical demands of long sequences in water.

We do wonder that nobody seems too worried about Kayla’s recovery from the beating at the film’s start, especially as the early sequence makes us wonder about her survival.

Otherwise, the filmmakers do a commendable job of balancing human drama with the emergency conditions, so that this doesn’t dip into camp. Given that SOMETHING IN THE WATER could be described as BRIDESMAIDS meets JAWS, that’s no small achievement.

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