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‘Dave Not Coming Back’ review: Documentary explores whys and hows of drowning death

Why do we risk our lives?

Dave Not Coming Back is a moving documentary about a diver who planned to retrieve a sunken body and never returned. As is customary, it is filled with interviews and footage to set the tone. The difference is how much emotion it is able to convey to its audience. Dave Shaw was a scuba diver who enjoyed venturing to the unexplored parts of Earth. His last mission was to recover a body that was 270 meters underwater. Along the way he was going to shoot a documentary about the entire recovery dive.

It was an incredibly dangerous dive. It would only take seventeen minutes to reach the depth, but twelve hours to resurface, for starters. This was due to the danger of decompression sickness or the bends. They would also be diving into a hole that was known for how dangerous it was.  This goes along with the various other accidents and challenges that can happen during a dive.

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As the title states, Dave did not return from the dive. Dave Not Coming Back is about more than just the fateful dive, however. It also is an examination of why people take on certain challenges. It is easy to categorize Dave as just another adrenaline junkie. While there may be some truth to that, it is clear from interviews that Dave is more interested in the unknown. Clearing his mind is more important than finding the next thrill.

The most emotional moments of Dave Not Coming Back are the aftermath of the dive. The team is obviously shaken and confused by what happened that day. Many feel guilty and question some of the decisions made that day. The emotion can be seen in the footage that was shot leading up to the final dive. Dave clearly meant a lot to everyone interviewed and this comes across through the camera.

The decision for one of Dave’s friends to come back and shoot re-enactments of the dive may not sit well with some. It is an odd decision that is done to tell the “real: story instead of the sensationalized one told by the media. (Though Dave’s death was recorded, the documentary wisely does not show this footage.)  Other than that, Dave Not Coming Back is a powerful documentary. 

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