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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Gorgeous Production Values Buoy "Fish in the Sea" Among Thrillers

"FISH IN THE SEA"
Length - 8:16
Company: Ryan Robins
Website: Official

Created for the National Film Challenge 2013, "Fish in the Sea" is a deceptively simple story about a weekend getaway for cute couple Lawrence (played by a dashing Chase Austin) and Tiffany (Sarah Adams). 

And it would have been really, really nice, had it not been for the fact that "Fish in the Sea" is not a warm romantic drama.

Instead, they arrive at the isolated house that Lawrence is supposed to be examining for his real estate work and meet Duke (Dominic Cole), the caretaker of the property.  He's handicapped and spends his time painting model airplanes and collecting things that used to belong to other people.

Something is up, and Tiffany has a keen sense that this place is not as abandoned as Lawrence seems to think it is.

 

NOT WHAT THEY SEEM

Everything you see in this picture is not what it seems.  Literally everything.  Not the boyfriend, not Duke, not even the house.  "Fish in the Sea", the latest film from director Ryan Robins, who also made the stunning "Ostinato" (reviewed here by yours truly), is a film that will screw with your head.  I watched it a second time just to make sure of what I'd seen.

The acting in this film is amazing.  Both Austin and Adams are not only credible but charismatic and fun to watch.  They have good chemistry on screen, and it's not hard to believe that they are indeed a couple on a getaway.

Cole does a good job with what he's given, but essentially all he gets to do is limp around and look mournful.  Is there something he wants to say to Tiffany, something he holds back because Lawrence is nearby?

TENSION

OK, this is bugging me: what is Duke's relationship to Lawrence? 

As Duke's preoccupation with Tiffany grows and Lawrence treats him worse and worse, the film becomes more and more interesting.  There is an unvoiced racial aspect to this film, in which Duke, who is supposed to be subservient to Lawrence, proceeds to then defy him at every turn, albeit quietly. 

Intentional?  I have no idea, but it made for an intriguing underlying message as Lawrence and Tiffany's romance unravels, and also ramped up the tension as you legitimately wonder what's going to happen next.

The ending was abrupt and didn't quite pay off for me.  Why did the killer wait so long to have his or her move?  The victim was alone with him/her several times before hand, so why wait?  The nature of its surprise kind of cheapened the film in my opinion.  It felt more like a student film's ending, where the writer's not sure what to do so they just kill people off and call it a day. 

CONCLUSION

"Fish in the Sea" is a tense thriller with likeable and believable leads, great acting, and spectacular visuals and high production values -- we've got AIRPLANES in this picture, people.  Ryan Robins knows how to work his budget and come out on top.  I don't know how he managed this stuff, but it made his film seem all the more legitimate.

The ending sputtered for me, but overall the picture was quite impressive and a great example of low budget filmmaking done well.  It looks great, sounds great, it doesn't lag at all, and there are hints abound of deeper thematic meaning than what we typically see in the genre.

Check out "Fish in the Sea" on Ryan Robins' official website here!  When you're done, don't forget to check out my review of "Ostinato, his last film.

OVERALL SCORES

Writing: 3 / 5.  The film kept you interested, and the dialogue felt genuine throughout.  The ending slipped, and I wish we could have known more about Lawrence and Duke's relationship.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Ryan Robins puts on another great show, with gorgeous visuals and immaculate lighting.  On the not so great side, some of the scenes where Duke bumps into Tiffany felt a little forced, visually, and maybe even slightly cliche and reminiscent of slasher films. 
Editing: 5 / 5.  Every scene feels like it plays out exactly how long it should be, no one shot seems over long.  This film is trimmed down to the leanest and meanest it can possibly be.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5. Alex Thomas' score was solid and added to the suspense.  His melodies are almost playful.  I really enjoyed that.  All the sound is top notch and recorded at high quality.  It's a professional show from start to finish.  That being said, some of the outdoor scenes could've used more ambience. 
Acting: 4 / 5.  Austin and Adam put on great, charismatic performances, with Austin being slightly more of a stand out thanks to the aggression and intimidation he gets to throw in the mix toward the middle and end of the film.  Dominic Cole does his part as best as could be expected.  This is one of the best acted short films I have ever seen.

Final Grade: 4 / 5.



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!