Neuchâtel 2022 Review: YEAR OF THE SHARK (L'ANNÉE DU REQUIN) Resets Shark Expectations
Marina Foïs, Jean-Pascal Zadi and Christine Gautier wage maritime war against a big fish in a snappy shark feature, directed by Ludovic Boukherma and Zoran Boukherma.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.
Year Of The Shark (L'année du Requin)
The film enjoys its World Premiere at the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival.
Maia (Marina Foïs) keeps putting off her retirement from the marine police department in lovely, peaceful La Pointe, France.
After more than 20 years of service in the sleepy seaside community, though, she is ready to accept the inevitable and enjoy her retirement with her loving husband, Thierry (Kad Merad), who has always bent his own personal inclinations to support his dear wife, no matter how crazy her hours, no matter how inconvenient the demands placed on her time. She is Staff Sergeant, working under a younger man, Ruben, which probably rankles her a bit, but she is not one to complain.
Still, she would have liked to go out in a blaze of glory, which doesn't seem possible in a town where the biggest complaint from the local business owners is that silly tourists keep coming from Paris and Germany, even though they depend upon such tourists for their livelihood. In her final week of service, however, something pops up which has never been seen before in the waters offshore: a shark!
Ludovic Boukherma and Zoran Boukherma, who wrote the original screenplay and directed together, acknowledge the influence of Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) in the script itself, patterning some of their early-going moments after classic scenes from the classic thriller. Taking a gentler tone than they did with their previous film, werewolf horror-comedy Teddy, which featured an annoying leading character who I wanted to kick in the teeth, Year of the Shark nonetheless generates genuine tension by making its leading characters more immediately likable.
Much credit, too, goes to the performance by Marina Foïs, who never rings a false note as a person who is driven by doing what is right and becomes downright possessed when something she decides not to do -- for all the right reasons -- comes back to haunt her and affect her standing in the community. Ludovic Boukherma and Zoran Boukherma surround her with characters who are easily recognizable; they are not highly-trained big-city cops, after all, but rather local folks who want to serve their community, even if the community doesn't need too much protection.
These characters include Maia's boss, Ruben, and two of her much less experienced yet loyal colleagues, Blaise (Jean-Pascal Zadi) and Eugenie (Christine Gautier). Combined with Maia's husband, Thierry, they form a solid core of support for Maia when she faces the challenge of her life battling a shark that has never been seen before.
The initial tone signals a more comic take, and the film as a whole is not without its lighter moments. As things progress, though, it begins shifting, almost imperceptibly, into more dramatic territory, and becomes much more of a thriller. Buttressed by a dynamic and highly-charged musical score by Amaury Chabauty, sharp cinematography by David Cailley, and very smart decisions about shooting the nearly non-visible shark mostly in the dark, Year of the Shark neatly dodges expectations that have been built up in the past 50 years.
You don't always need a bigger boat; sometimes you just need better people on board.