The Shallows is a film about a girl who goes surfing and has to fight for her life against an enormous shark. The director is Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed the hit movie Orphan (2009) with a powerful female lead. I went to a theater and prepared myself for something I did not expect.

The movie begins with our heroine Nancy, played by Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively. She travels to a remote beach trying to connect with her deceased mother. We find out that Nancy has dropped out of medical school. She loses faith in the occupation because medicine failed to save her mother from cancer. Nancy seems carefree trying to get lost in the ocean and also appears to be an accomplished surfer. While surfing, she comes upon a floating whale corpse swarmed by seagulls. This interests her and she goes for a closer look. Something brushes her leg, scaring her into returning to shore. On the way back to shore, a shark bites her leg — immobilizing her on a rock a couple hundred feet from shore. The story continues in this fashion with Nancy using her medical training to survive. With high tide approaching and her island about to disappear, she can either give up or fight back to save herself.

On a deeper level this movie is a metaphor for life and swimming in the ocean is the journey. The meaning I took was that Nancy was trying to understand death and somehow the whale symbolized her mother. So knowing this, it was easier to decipher the rest of the movie with this unique clue. Nancy is on a journey traveling through life and the ocean away from the shore and what she knows. Along this journey, there are constant camera angles of the unknown things floating beneath her – It may be a pod of happy dolphins or a bloodthirsty shark. Nancy’s journey is also a symbol of her mother’s struggle with a terrible disease. When Nancy hits her breaking point, she calls upon her mother’s strength to go on with not only her normal life but to fight back against a shark and survive.

Nancy goes through an amazing transformation in this film, starting as the cliché damsel in distress that are common in horror films. Throughout the film, she transforms into the master of her own fate and a character we can all aspire to be especially when fear rules our life.

-Jake Goforth
Junior Boy
Girl Museum Inc.


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