It’s been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder…but only to a point…
Submergence is a shiny and sexy looking love story but in doing something a little too straight ahead here, director Wim Wenders actually fails because while everyone is compelling and likeable no one is really all that interesting and all the other minutia of the story falls by the way side for these two lovers that are pining for each other.
James (James McAvoy) is a British agent under the cover of a water engineer, while Danny (Alicia Vikander) is a bio-mathematician working on a deep-sea diving project to explore the origin of life on our planet. On a chance encounter in a remote resort in Normandy where they both prepare for their respective missions, they fall rapidly, and unexpectedly, into each other’s arms and a deliriously wild love affair develops, even though their jobs are destined to separate them. Danny sets off on a perilous quest to dive to the bottom of the ocean. James’s assignment takes him to Somalia, where he is sucked into a geopolitical vortex that puts him in grave danger. Both characters are subject to different kinds of isolation as they pine for each other; their determination to reconnect becomes as much an existential journey as a love story.
I’m all for a good existentialist idea but they are just so damn hard to get translated on the big screen as Wim Wenders hopes that we get into the right kind of mood while staring into the eyes of our beautiful leads in Submergence but so there’s so much narrative waste and expositional debris surrounding these two characters that it is legitimately difficult to get invested in them, one way or another.
As a storyteller and filmmaker, Wim Wenders has never one who has historically been afraid to push boundaries and do something a little different, but this time out he almost plays a little to his detriment as this love story tries to introduce some large minded ideas but they all end up playing pretty flatly. The script from Erin Digman who adapted it for the screen from the novel by J.M. Ledgard feels like it leans too much on the ideas that you just can’t shoot of these two isolated yet star crossed lovers who find themselves longing for each other from impossible distances. It’s just filled with so many dry moments that are trying to be inspiring and inspirational that it’s far too easy for us to lose focus as audience’s members, and us getting lost is an almost unforgiveable action because the root of the story (the romance between the two leads) is just so straight forward.
Both James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander radiate the star power, good looks and general likability for us to buy that these two very different personalities have found themselves at the right place and the right time in order to fall in love, however as we dive into the isolation and the nature of said isolation that each character ends up feeling we get disconnected from the piece as a whole. There’s minimal character development outside of these two and seeing both of these characters stare off into the abyss of missing each other terrible gets a little tedious after a while. We get the point, but it keeps hammering it home with diminishing effect.
Ultimately, Submergence is a very pretty movie and while I have no problem watching two attractive celebrities make googly eyes at each other for the sake of the narrative, but there has to be a better pay off then the fleeting ideals and emotional shades of grey that this story exists. Hardly a bad try to be sure, but everyone involved in this one deserved a little bit better all around.
Submergence is available to see in select Cineplex event cinemas here in Canada on Friday, April 20th and on most digital platforms across North America.