Following last year’s two-girls-up-a-pylon suspenser Fall, here’s this year’s two-girls-underwater suspenser The Dive. This sort of coping (or not) with bad luck in the wilds movie, aimed perhaps at folks who dread going on holiday, has been a persistent strain since Open Waters and 127 Hours … and pretty much always manage to get audiences sweating or biting nails in frustration.
Director-writer Maximilian Erlenwein – remaking a Swedish film Breaking Surface – sketches in the bare minimum of character stuff with sisters Drew (Sophie Lowe) and May (Louisa Krause) – not estranged, but with hints of family woes in the background – as they drive to a remote rocky beach for a session cave-diving (it’s implied that they are American, but the location is Malta). A rock fall on land and underwater pins May’s leg with considerably less than 127 hours worth of air in her tank – while also burying the spare tanks on the shore, and their phones and keys to a rental car which might (or might not) have a jack in the boot). Drew has to dive repeatedly to her trapped sister, risking the bends every time she rushes a trip back to the surface, and runs about on the barren, depopulated shore to find something – anything – she can use to pry May free.
Eventually, both women start suffering from raptures of the deep – allowing for a few hallucinatory, semi-surreal moments underwater with non-Esther Williams dances. Lowe and Krause are both good in tricky circumstances – limited dialogue, facemasks which blur their expressions, and rough physical situations which either keep them stuck in one place or have them run or swim in long shot (Krause also can’t show too much emotion because May is trying to conserve her air by staying calm – against all instincts). The spine of the story, of course, is the sisters’ attempts to rescue each other – completing an almost minimal arc about their metaphorical drifting apart before a literal coming together.