This little two-hander took me very much by surprise. From German-born director Maximilian Erlenwein (Stereo) and his co-writer Joachim Hedén comes The Dive, a story about two estranged sisters—Sophie Lowe as Drew and Louisa Krause as May—who go on an annual outing in the hopes of shoring up their relationship, which apparently hasn’t done much good over the years. This particular vacation, the two go to a remote spot for a deep-sea diving trip. After a catastrophic rock slide results in the more experienced diver, May, getting her leg trapped in debris 28 meters down, it’s up to Drew to get back to the surface, grab more oxygen tanks and try to find something to pull the rocks off of her sister’s leg.
Naturally, a few things don’t go as planned—from their basecamp also getting covered by fallen rocks to a much-needed jack being locked in the trunk of their car—so Drew must improvise, which isn’t always a good thing when you’re dealing with a limited air supply. It also doesn’t help when Drew goes up and down to her sister several times without taking the proper time for decompressing, leaving her vulnerable to blood clots and other disgusting pressure-related issues. Without diverging into outrageous undersea dangers (there are no sharks to be found here), The Dive moves like lightning through its 90-minute runtime, barely catching its breath except when it’s literally focusing on controlling one’s breathing to conserve oxygen.
As I was watching the film, I found myself holding my breath along with Drew, just to see if I could hold mine as long as she does (I’m pretty sure I passed out twice from doing this), and in the end, I found myself getting more and more anxious as the movie goes on and the sisters’ situation becomes more and more hopeless. While May is left alone in the dark with only her thoughts, we’re shown flashbacks she’s having to her troubled childhood and trauma she experienced as her father was trying to teach the girls how to swim by holding them under water. These memories hint at a deeper issue with her father that the film never fully explores, but The Dive hardly needs extra reasons for us to be scared of what’s to come—though it does make us wonder throughout if one or both of these women won’t survive this ordeal.
The outcome of the film doesn’t feel outrageous, nor does it defy the laws of physics, gravity, chemistry, or the deep. It simply plays out, and all we can do is hope for the best and remember to breathe while we still can. It’s a taut thriller, a perfect COVID-era production, and a real step forward for director Erlenwein. The deep-sea diving footage is also quite spectacular and a bit spooky, as we occasionally are treated to shots of an empty darkness that scared the living crap out of me.
The film is available in a limited theatrical release and via VOD and digital.
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