Review by Sean Boelman
The feature debut of Uruguayan filmmaker Lucía Garibaldi, The Sharks is a slick and stylish new coming-of-age drama. However, like so many coastal-set films of the genre, this offers disappointingly little in terms of new and insightful content despite the tremendous talent that Garibaldi shows behind the camera.
The movie follows a young woman as she comes of age and experiences her first love as the town around her begins to panic under the suspicion that the waters may be infested with sharks. A Jaws-style thriller this is not, with the focus instead on the protagonist and her emotional journey, the eponymous marine animals simply serving as a backdrop and a metaphor for the character.
Garibaldi has an obvious message in the film about young love and how people can grow from it, but this message doesn’t contribute to the well-trodden canon of the genre. While this theme is certainly universal because it’s something that nearly everyone experiences in their youth, Garibaldi’s script doesn’t feel anywhere near personal enough to warrant an additional take on the genre.
The good thing about the movie is that, at a mere one hour and twenty minutes, the film doesn’t overstay its welcome even if it fails to justify its existence on a storytelling level. Yes, the movie is treading shallow water at times, but there is enough conflict in the story to give the plot sufficient narrative momentum.
Additionally, the film’s breathtaking sense of visual rhythm makes it hard to look away from the screen. From the opening shots, it is clear that Garibaldi has an impressive level of control over the aesthetic aspects of her craft, with some gorgeous cinematography from Germán Nocella and a hypnotic score by Miguel Recalde and Fabrizio Rossi.
That said, the movie’s fatal sin is that the character development doesn’t work particularly well. Although viewers will likely empathize with aspects of the protagonist’s experiences, none of the characters are actively likable, and that does not seem to be the filmmaker’s intention. It is difficult to get behind a summer love when the object of the protagonist’s desire is unmistakably a jerk.
Regardless, young actress Romina Bentancur does a very good job in her screen debut as the protagonist. She is able to infuse the character with a lot of honesty and believability, even when the script starts to take her arc in a more conventional and archetypal direction. Her chemistry with co-star Federico Morosini could have been improved, but this doesn’t detract from the film significantly.
Lucía Garibaldi may not have burst onto the scene with The Sharks, but the visual greatness of the film is still enough to establish her as someone to watch. This was just missing a bit of a personal touch to elevate it to its potential greatness.
The Sharks hits VOD on April 14.