Body of Beauty in Body of Water.
Based on a true incident, OPEN WATER tells the speculative tale of two deep-sea divers accidentally abandoned by their diving party in Caribbean open water.
On the diving boat, the tour guide keeps count of the dozen or so divers by using the technological method of making tally marks on a scrap of paper.
Daniel and Susan dive a little further than they should and when they surface, the genius with the tally marks has miscounted returning divers and the boat has departed.
Two insignificant bodies in a limitless ocean – fact that one of them is Blanchard Ryan’s 9.5 body is doubly tragic…
In the open water, as boats appear intermittently, tantalizingly out of signaling range, Daniel and Susan go through stages of coping – first, their disbelief that they are even “lost” in this modern world. As the surreal black of night descends (with our only views of them provided by stark flashes of lightning), they focus on survival, leaning on each other for support; the Pointless Blaming Argument starts seven hours into their ordeal (which I think was overestimating the divers’ patience), that tragically funny familiar Couples Argument that will change nothing and go nowhere.
At first, Daniel is the Man, ensuring his woman is safe. When the realization dawns that he is impotent out there, it is fathoms worse than losing a job and not being a provider. His visceral Primal Scream is more than just fear and frustration at the incompetence of the tourist boat – he is losing hold of that pedestal that he must naturally occupy as a Man in a heterosexual relationship.
We will never know exactly what transpired between the lost couple, as they were never seen again after they were left at sea, so it is slightly sad, as well as terrifying, that the whole movie is absolute speculation. Speculation on when a shark took a bite out of Daniel’s calf, how they survived in the water so long after his blood would’ve been a beacon to deep-water predators; speculation on whether sharks attacked them at all, or how long they survived in the water, and how they passed their time trying to live or die.
Written, directed, shot and edited by Chris Kentiss, with assistance from wife, Laura Lau, with no crew to speak of, OPEN WATER was filmed over the course of two years on a guerrilla schedule and indie budget, bucking the Hollywood system without us realizing it.
Look carefully, you’ll see Steve Lemme (from Broken Lizard) on the boat as a diving extra (Blanchard’s real-life boyfriend – oh, the pain! If he ever abandons you, Blanchard honey, I’ll be your little green life raft!).
OPEN WATER is a strange dichotomy of disturbia: on the one hand, it is compelling for playing on our primal fears; on the other hand, it is morbid that two actual divers inspired this movie with their deaths! Tom and Eileen Lonergan, from Louisiana, United States, were last seen by their diving party in St. Crispin’s Reef, part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, in January 1998. Their tragic disappearance is the basis of this tale. Yet Kentiss never consulted any of the families for permission to tell the tale, nor did he research the finer details, opting to tell a harrowing story based on the incident itself, unconnected to any greater theme. So OPEN WATER speculates on the last days of Tom and Eileen with wild abandon.
Did I just say ‘abandon’?