Screening at Fantasia Film Festival 2023 on Aug 6
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Potential Spoiler Alert
Shenxiu (Tingwen Wang) is not a happy young girl in Tian Xiaopeng’s movie, Deep Sea. That’s because she’s not being loved; not only is she neglected by her dad and step-mom, making her feel very depressed, but also the relationship with her biological one is deteriorating. Because the film didn’t translate all those text conversations that blitzed by in the opening act, I’m thankful I understood enough to notice.
But to comprehend everything this motion picture presents requires a few more viewings and an updated subtitle file to play along with this movie. Although I had an electronic press kit to help reveal some other details, I’d rather want to discover these facts on my own.
Thankfully, more screenings after Tribecca and Fantasia Film Fest are planned, and I would love to see this on the big screen as the filmmaker intended. Xiaopeng is best known for Monkey King: The Hero is Back (movie review), and while that tale delivers more in the humour department, I believe his sophomore work is darker.
Although the producers say Chinese Ink paintings inspire their style, I see more. There’s techniques from other masters like Van Gogh and Gerhard Richter. While this kaleidoscopic presentation is wildly spectacular, it doesn’t hide the fact everything is blue. That colour is often used to describe a state of mind, and throughout Deep Sea, this young girl learns she can’t be sad forever. The only armour she has is a red sweater that her first mom once wore, but to keep that on isn’t enough to protect her from everything else going on in her life.
As a result, I’m surprised her current parents have not put her into a foster home. In the opening act, she’s only with her dad because he understands what his duty is. However, just how well he treats her is rough. It’s compariable to how the Dursleys treated Harry Potter throughout the years. While she’s brought along to join in an ocean adventure with her new step-brother, the parents are doting over him rather than giving both equal time. During a storm at night where she rescues a fish that landed on the boat, she’s swept overboard!
The particle physics engine required to animate the storms and raging surf are amazing. But what’s presented at the start as a water tornado gets even more wildly beautiful as more colours are introduced and we see a transition of her state of mind. Even the marine life are sparkly and painted with the bold colours from the rainbow. While I’m not sure if coral reefs exist off the coasts of China, I’d be ecstatic should such a place like the Deep Sea Floating Restaurant was real! But there’s more to this beautiful aquatic wonderland to discover. As for whether she’s imagining it or not, we do not know.
If she’s been spirited away, nobody is telling. The anthropomorphic marine creatures she meets, and the other lone human, are happy to give her the joy she desires. But when Hyjinx is a chaotic terror waiting in the wings, all is not well. In this alternate version of Oz, she isn’t allowed to be with her mom.
Even though she’s enjoying life with Nanhe (Su Xiun), even he has his secrets. While this stranger’s motives seem noble, just what he isn’t telling had me puzzling over his strange, erratic, behaviour. I can see he’s a good man, but like many a clown who has to show both a happy and sad face, just what that means requires me to revisit my Greek theatre textbooks.
Also, this film isn’t over when the credits roll. The epilogue that runs during this sequence reveals a bit more, and yes, there’s a post-credits scene. Thankfully, I’m sure this tale is not meant to be like a certain fever dream as written by Guillermo del Toro. I’d be torn had this girl been required to choose between living in the real world or going to rule in a fairy realm. While most of us hopes she can be her real mom one more time, what’s revealed here is just as appealing.
4 Stars out of 5