Year of the Shark is a French shark movie from Ludovic & Zoran Boukherma (Teddy). The plot follows Maja Bordenave, a maritime police officer who is about to retire – if only she can bring herself. Nothing happens in La Pointe, the little French beach town where she has been stationed for the past twenty years. When beachgoers begin disappearing and body parts start washing up, she fears there may be a shark. But will her impending retirement plus the wants of the locals allow her to do what she knows is right?
As with most shark movies, this is an homage to Jaws. Unlike many of them, it is not a cheaply done ripoff. Year of the Shark is comfortable in its own skin allowing it to flesh out its story. Not only does it deal with a deadly predator, it is also a comedy, drama, and character study. This differentiates the plot from similar films that go all in on the terror but never develop the humans that are in danger.
Year of the Shark looks most deeply at Maja and her husband Thierry (Kad Merad). Maja was already having trouble accepting the idea of retirement when the attacks at the beach began. She is dedicated, but has also been bored. When the opportunity arises to take on something larger, it is obvious what decision she is going to make. For his part, Thierry has been supportive of his wife her whole career. As the body count increases, the love he has for his becomes a bigger part of the story.
This also gives the film a chance to look at their relationship as a whole. It is an unexpected addition as movies in this sub-genre do not often explore the depths of a relationship. Again, the willingness of Year of the Shark to explore people makes it more interesting. It does come at a cost, however. While Maja and Thierry are three dimensional characters, the rest of the cast are not given much to work with. They are fun characters that bring something to the movie, but they are shallow.
As good of a job as Year of the Shark does with its characters, it never quite settles on a tone. It is clearly never a horror movie, but the drama and comedy are interlaced in a way that can make hard to tell what type of story it is trying to tell. It is genuinely funny and audiences will care for Maja and Thierry, but there is little else to grab a firm hold of. It is an overall fun watch that is missing that one thing to make it truly special.
Year of the Shark is screening at Fantastic Fest
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