'Water' drops a few jaws

SUSANNE PEREZ

It's been 29 years since "Jaws" first made us nervous about swimming

with sharks. Now, with the release of the well-crafted, intense "Open

Water," you may not want to splash in anything other than a bathtub.

This story is based on an actual incident of a few years back,

when divers went missing off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

On the screen, workaholics Susan and Daniel (Blanchard Ryan and

Daniel Travis) pack up the laptops and cellphones for a last-minute

vacation in the Caribbean. A young, attractive couple, they seem too

self-absorbed to notice their separate needs.

When they're out on a scuba-diving excursion with a group of other

divers, the two resurface and are stunned to realize their boat is

nowhere in sight. Surely they will be rescued soon, they reason, but

they cannot get their bearings and drift further and further out to

sea. Meanwhile, the boat's crew members and other passengers are

unaware the couple are missing.

As experienced this past weekend by those in the path of Hurricane

Charley, we are still at the mercy of nature, in spite of all our

technology, and we are quite insignificant in the big scheme of

things.

"I wanted to go skiing!" sobs Susan, as they try to adjust to the

reality of having no control over their fates.

The hours pass interminably, and Susan and Daniel run the gamut of

emotions -- anger, hope, resentment, fear and love.

Unlike "Jaws," "Open Water" is low-key, and the dialogue is as

convincing as those sharks. The hand-held digital cameras (by

writer/director Chris Kentis and producer Laura Lau) and sound

effects add to the documentary feel -- you can almost taste the salt

water.

The ending was a real stunner, too. The audience sat still for

nearly a minute before gulping for air and heading for home.

* SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant

for a financial services company.

Homecoming inspires

a new 'State' for Braff

Drowning in the abyss of silence, loss and deprivation of soul is

a man who has forgotten what it means to live. Welcome to the "Garden

State."

Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff, who also directed) moved to Los

Angeles to become an actor, leaving his East Coast family and friends

with no reminder of his past. Medicated with lithium, he never fully

grasps any meaning of life.

After not returning home for nine years, Andrew is summoned by his

father for reasons that alter his world indefinitely. His mother, a

fragile woman paralyzed from the waist down, has drowned in the

bathtub.

So, Andrew is called forth out of hiding and isolation from his

past to revisit his childhood and witness his own rebirth. Despite

the sorrow and lack of motivation to live, Andrew's return home

proves to be the ideal remedy to alleviating his agony.

While attending his mother's funeral, Andrew experiences no

emotional consciousness in relation to the loss he has suffered. At

home after the burial, he and his father share their perspectives on

what their situation means.

Upon his return, Andrew neglects to take his lithium pills and

receives rapid and frequent headaches that last for a split second

and vanish. Perplexed by this reaction, he goes to see a doctor, who

advises him to resume taking the medication.

But in a roundabout way, he tells him to get a second opinion. It

is from this revelation that he begins to live, without being

contained by medicine, and is free to feel again.

During his four days home, he meets a young woman named Sam

(Natalie Portman) at the clinic, who turns out to be a habitual liar.

In spite of that, she has a profound effect on Andrew, who is only

starting to adapt to life without lithium. Through her wit, she shows

Andrew what life could be. He finds himself yet loses her.

As the story unfolds, Andrew matures emotionally. His new

perception of life is the antidote for his trite and prosaic history.

Despite the plot's melancholic tone, laughter is never absent, and

character is never deficient. Sympathy and remorse combine with

hilarity to set a unique tone.

Although bewildered by a life full of emotionless uncertainty,

Andrew rekindles his spirit and develops an objective for which to

live. And although all humanity seems lost, it is recaptured in a

return to childhood memories and future aspirations.

* SARA SALAM, is a student at Corona del Mar High School.

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