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The Shallows

MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for bloody images, intense sequences of peril, and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan

Moral Rating: Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Thriller
Length: 1 hr. 27 min.
Year of Release: 2016
USA Release: June 24, 2016 (wide—2,962 theaters)
DVD: September 27, 2016
Copyright, TriStar Pictures, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainmentclick photos to ENLARGE Copyright, TriStar Pictures, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, TriStar Pictures, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, TriStar Pictures, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, TriStar Pictures, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, TriStar Pictures, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, TriStar Pictures, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment
Relevant Issues

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

never giving up

About hope

Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Discover God’s promise for all people—told beautifully and clearly from the beginning. Discover The HOPE! Watch it on Christian Answers—full-length motion picture.

Where did CANCER come from? Answer

How did bad things come about? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Featuring Blake LivelyNancy
Óscar Jaenada … Carlos
Brett Cullen … Father
Sedona Legge … Chloe
Director Jaume Collet-Serra — “Unknown” (2011), “Non-Stop” (2014), “Orphan” (2009)
Producer Columbia Pictures
Ombra Films
Weimaraner Republic Pictures
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures
, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment

Nancy has dreamed of this day for so long… her trip to the beach. After struggling over her mother’s death (who we learn lost a fight with cancer) and feeling no real purpose to continue medical school, Nancy needs this alone time on the beach.

But it’s not just any beach. This Mexican beach has a history for her family; it is where her mother gave birth to her. So Nancy heads to the beach, zips up her wet suit, and heads out on her surfboard.

All is calm, all is well. Sensing the day is drawing to a close, Nancy decides to head to shore. But as she makes her way, she is attacked underneath by a shark. After struggling to fight it off, Nancy makes her way up onto a rock.

Time is not on Nancy’s side. Her leg is bleeding profusely, the shark is lurking nearby, and no one seems to be coming to her aid. It’s a fight for survival. So much for a nice day at the beach…

“The Shallows” is one of those films that, at first glance, might seem to be attempting to pay homage to “Jaws” (you know the climactic music in the background, the shark lurking in the water, people being eaten by the shark, the tension, etc.). But, about halfway through the film I realized that while “The Shallows” DOES pay homage to the “shark-attack” genre, the emphasis is not so much on Nancy fighting off the shark, or surviving the shark, her bleeding leg, or the natural elements. There is more that Nancy contends with. As previously mentioned, Nancy has lost her mother, as well as the will to continue medical school. Psychologically, she struggles back and forth as to whether to continue to fight to survive and make it back to shore or to simply surrender. There are moments where the film shows her leaning both ways.

It is the psychological nature of this film that provides a sense of connectivity between the audience and Nancy. This is what separates “The Shallows” from “Jaws” or any other shark-attack film. The psychological back and forth Nancy endures (which again, allows for a more focused and a more full sense of character development, as the focus is on ONE character). This is also the psychological suspense as the audience wonders which way things will go. Will Nancy succumb to… the shark or the injuries and natural elements she is contending with? As such, this pays a somewhat obvious, yet appropriate, homage to “Jaws,” as well as to other shark-attack films that attempted to carry or “copy” the “Jaws” legacy.

Content of Concern

Violence: The violence might be considered less frequent or slightly less extreme) as compared to other shark-attack films (I’m thinking, again, by “Jaws” standards), there are very disturbing scenes. One involves a man caught by the shark and decapitated; we witness his final moments. Other scenes involve the shark jumping out of the water to catch a surfer in his mouth, and in another scene the shark drags a surfer down into the water where we see massive amounts of blood. Nancy swims jellyfish in an attempt to reach a buoy in the water, as is stung. We watch Nancy use her jewelry to stitch together her leg wound and compress her wound, which results in her screaming several times. The huge, menacing shark makes multiple attempts on Nancy’s life throughout the film.

Sex/Nudity: Mild. Nancy wears a very revealing bikini under her wet suit. We see this before she dresses in her wet suit (and even in her wet suit, there are moments when, as she paddles out to the water, we see some revealing “bottom portion” of the bikini as well as some of her backside. There are also shirtless males.

Language: Language is moderate, with one instance of “f*ck,” “sh*t” (2), OMG (1) and “Oh g*d” (1).


As I said, the central theme of “The Shallows” is survival—the need to fight. In the film, Nancy comes to the realization that her mother, even though she knew the cancer was untreatable and even though the cancer did eventually take her, never did she give up hope. Even her father tells her in a video chat, “We’re fighters.”

Often when things are bleak, it is hard to see the silver lining in certain situations. We think that there is no one who can possibly understand what we’re going through, that we have no purpose and that there is, truly nothing to fight for. We feel, in short, abandoned.

About hope

Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Discover God’s promise for all people—told beautifully and clearly from the beginning. Discover The HOPE! Watch it on Christian Answers—full-length motion picture.

But this is our enemy, Satan, speaking lies to us! He is trying to separate us from God. If he can convince us we have no purpose, he thinks he has succeeded (notice I say “thinks”). But the Lord makes it clear that we DO have a purpose. For it says in Isaiah 43:1

“But now, this is what the LORD says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

And in Jeremiah 1:5,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

With this in mind, trust in the Lord, to know we have purpose. As the Apostle Paul says…

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” —1 Corinthians 16:13-14

A film like “The Shallows” serves as a reminder regarding the dangers of the ocean, as well as how to properly partake in ocean activities (never swim alone, always swim with a lifeguard on duty, never swim in the dark, etc.) But… do you need to see “The Shallows” in order to be reminded of this? Absolutely not. Even with the commendable take on the shark-attack formula, the violence is still graphic and disturbing to stomach. Please DO NOT bring young children to see this.

This film is for older teens and adults ONLY, if you decide to go. My suggestion, though, is to avoid this film.

Violence: Heavy to Extreme / Profanity: Moderate to Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—Gripping, thrilling, endlessly tense, horrifyingly intense. All of these are perfect for describing the non-stop thrill ride that is “The Shallows”. From start to finish, I was completely engaged and gripping the edge of my seat. The acting is superb, the cinematography is gorgeous, the tension is intensely palpable throughout, and the main character immensely likable. As for the content, I have to say I respectfully disagree with the moral rating given to film here. This is actually a fairly clean movie by modern standards. There is barely any language (1 f-bomb, a couple of mild cuss words, and a few misuses of the Lord’s name), no sexual content whatsoever, no drug use, and no anti-biblical or immoral messages. The movie actually preaches a very important metaphorical message about perseverance and the hardships of life.

The one objectionable element is the realistic violence needed to drive what is a very intense survival story. There are some bloody shark attack scenes and mild (PG-13 appropriate) gory images. I hardly consider that enough reason to label the movie as being very offensive. It is definitely a reason for kids and younger teens to avoid this film though as it’s much to intense for that age range. I highly recommend this tense, smartly crafted, gripping, and surprisingly poignant tale of survival to mature teens and adults.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Joseph Gabriel, age 19 (USA)
Positive—This movie was excellent. It had me gripping my seat the whole time. I sometimes wonder, when I’m about to view a movie where one person pretty much carries the whole film, if it will get boring, but there were no boring moments here. The only thing that could have made this better, in my opinion, would have been if it were based on a true story. Fantastic cinematography, excellent acting (Blake Lively has really come into her own lately acting-wise), and a gripping story make this a great summer film.

As said previously, there is some gore. I thought it was mild compared to so many other films, but reconsidering the actual scenes and the strong tension throughout, I definitely wouldn’t take anyone under 12 to this movie. The swearing is extremely light as well—only one harsh swear word. My biggest eye-roller was the gratuitous amount of side-boob continually displayed with Lively’s too-small bikini.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Doralyn, age 38 (USA)
Positive—Ok, so I thought this movie would be mediocre and lag on, but it was actually really good and showed how she planned to maneuver her way around surviving. It’s definitely an “edge of your seat” kind of movie, so if you have heart problems, rent it, but put the volume looooow. It was awesome and surprisingly really clean. She wears a bikini, but covers with a shirt most of the time to keep warm. Clean, entertaining, and worth it. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Paulina, age 22 (USA)
Positive—Great scenery; keeps you on the edge of your seat. We liked it. I saw this movie with my older teens. I rarely “jump” in a movie. But this movie had everybody jumping. I agree with the reviewer, this movie had some gory parts, but, in general, the gory parts were in context. I would definitely say that the movie is not for a younger crowd.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Ross, age 50 (USA)
Neutral—The woman stalked by a shark is supposed to be a medical student—and she proves that one can be intelligent, but not very wise. Who would go to a deserted beach in Mexico to surf knowing that if you’re injured or in trouble there is NO ONE to help? When the shark started attacking a drunk at night, she could have easily swam to shore while he was occupied with his new kill, but she just sat there and screamed. Really, how smart is that? As a Christian, I didn’t hear any prayers from her asking God’s help. But Our Lord is well aware of the old saying “You can’t fix stupid.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
Leonardo, age 74 (USA)
Neutral—Movie was entertaining. Liked the concept except for a pretty blond girl alone at a hidden beach in Mexico and out swimming a 10 foot great white shark. Too bad they didn’t know anything about Great Whites. Great white sharks prefer mammals with high fat content—they need the fat for energy—as per shark expert Peter Klimley. So why would a white reject a bloody, dead, ripped open whale with lots of fat for a skinny human? Most shark bites that do not take out the bite area are bites thru rubber/? wet suits. Reason unknown, but perhaps the taste of the suit? Using the arm of her suit as a compression bandage is also like the bitten legs in the wetsuits—it does helps control blood flow. See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
Ron, age 78 (USA)
Movie Critics
…Blake Lively shark-fighting thriller is superb… With its lean script, clever construction and arresting cinematography, this crass-on-paper bikini movie turns out to be a minor masterpiece…
Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian (UK)
…“The Shallows” is brisk and engaging, and a great vehicle for Lively. The film has the sort of breathtaking cinematography that will inspire you to visit the ocean. …[3½/4]
Liz Braun, Postmedia Network
…tense… It is a lean, mean, occasionally brutal survivalist thriller… What it somewhat lacks in sensationalistic horror tropes it makes up for in gritty quasi-realism that becomes surprisingly moving. …
Scott Mendelson, Forbes
…Lively is in every scene, the camera squarely on her, and she’s fine. She makes us root for Nancy because she’s so tough, so clever. …cinematography is often stunning…
Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic
…It’s a genre film that tries to be classier than shark movies tend to be… The PG-13 rating might seem limiting for those expecting the type of gore one normally gets when a shark's involved, but it goes pretty far to push the limit of that rating. …
Edward Douglas, New York Daily News
…Lively may have been cast primarily for her physique, but she proves a compelling heroine all the same. …As for Collet-Serra, not only does he fail to master the creepy shark’s-eye view, but he even botches that other Spielberg signature: the lingering, wide-eyed reaction shot. …
Peter Debruge, Variety
…For all its skills, the shark turns out to be a pretty thin hook on which to hang a less-than-90-minute movie. Since “The Shallows” is a star vehicle for the attractive and statuesque Ms. Lively, the suspense here is somewhat circumscribed. …
Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
…A sub-90 minute, check-your-brain-at-the-ticket-window diversion not unlike 1997’s Deep Blue Sea (minus the show-stopping Samuel L. Jackson death scene). …[B-]
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
…“Jaws” with false teeth. …Shallow is a mild word for it. Others would be silly, miscalculated, unconvincing, artless, pandering, hokey, ridiculous. Or just plain awful. An old-fashioned shark-attack exploitation picture that willfully disregards all the important lessons of suspense filmmaking passed down from Alfred Hitchcock and, most applicably in this case, Steven Spielberg…
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
…Ultimately, “The Shallows” is a splash of fresh seawater in the face of a dismal summer-movie season. It’s cheesy, but director Jaume Collet-Serra knows his genre thrills and builds layers of suspense and dread, along with some hypnotically beautiful aerial ocean shots. [2½/4]
Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

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