Sunday, December 27, 2020

Breaking Surface: Underwater Action & Family Angst

Remember, this is supposed to be fun. People go to great lengths and expense to enjoy a scuba-diving vacation. Swedish sisters Ida and Tuva need only drive a few hours to the Norwegian coast, but their diving excursion will not be much of a holiday. Disaster will strike, imperiling their lives and sibling bonds in Joachim Heden’s Breaking Surface, which is now playing in virtual cinemas.

A near fatal swimming incident poisoned young Ida’s long-term relationship with her mother and indirectly caused her to resent Tuva’s blatant status as her favorite daughter. Perversely, a love of diving still sort of keeps the family together. Their post-Christmas dive is a family tradition, but Mommie Dearest must take a pass this year, due a lingering cold.

As a result, it is just the two sisters diving when Tuva is suddenly trapped beneath a freak rock slide. Unfortunately, she is the more experienced, professional diving, whereas Ida is the more emotional one, making her prone to panic. She tries to keep calm, but when she reaches the surface, she finds their gear is also buried under the rocks. Don’t worry—Knut, the family dog is still safe and loyally provides encouragement from the shore.

Breaking Surface
is sort of a shorty, not even reaching eighty minutes, including the entire end-credits, but Heden keeps it lean and down-to-business. There is a lot of compelling undersea action, mostly performed by the two primary cast-members themselves. Yet, maybe the most cinematic episode comes early on, when Tuva narrowly escapes death during a work-related dive.

Regardless, each one-darned-thing-after-another successfully cranks up the tension and it all seems technical sound to a non-diver. Even though they are wearing masks for most of the film, Mao Gammel Guinsburg and Madeleine Martin are definitely credible playing sisters, who share years of awkward history and baggage. Nevertheless, they are inevitably up-staged by Heden’s fantastic underwater shots and of course, Knut.

This is indeed one of the best-looking scuba survival-thrillers you can find, thanks to some incredible work from Heden and underwater cinematographer Eric Borjeson. Even if you are not a diving enthusiast, you will remember the scenes with the killer whales and the engine propeller. Recommended as a svelte submerged-action drama,
Breaking Surface is now available in the Angelika’s virtual cinema.