Never judge a book by its cover… or a film by its extremely short synopsis. Audiences attending film festivals in 2019 may have been tempted to overlook The Pool but were mistaken to do so. You may be asking yourself, “How much movie can they really squeeze out of the premise of a guy that’s trapped in a drained pool?” Quite a lot, actually.
The Pool is directed by Ping Lumpraploeng and stars Theeradej Wongpuapan and Ratnamon Ratchiratham. The premise of the film is simple, deceptively so. A man and his dog wrap up a commercial gig being filmed in a massive swimming pool. He’s the last person on set and decides to float in the 20 feet deep pool before packing it in. As he sleeps the pool is suddenly drained and he wakes up with half the water volume gone and the edge of the pool maddeningly out of reach. To make matters worse, before the pool drains completely, a passing crocodile becomes trapped in the pool as well. Everything just goes downhill from there.
The film enjoyed immense festival praise and generated a lot of buzz after screenings at Austin’s Fantastic Fest, the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film, and the Thailand National Film Association Awards.
We love a film that gets right to the point! Subtlety be damned as The Pool opens on a shocking note, like diving into the deep end and only then realizing that the water is freezing. This first moment sets an aggressive pace for the film. A pace that, amazingly, the film is able to maintain and build upon. At a damn-near-perfect runtime of 90 minutes, The Pool keeps the action up, the story constantly shifting and changing, and never allows the viewer to catch their breath. The result is a gripping and intense film experience that is, to put it simply, a ton of fun.
The Pool should be considered required viewing for narrative study. This film manages to do the absolute most with so little. The setting, elements, and characters are tightly restricted, but The Pool feels limitless. As I just discussed, the entire film has an intensity and a momentum that continues to up the stakes for the entirety of the film. When a new stake or element is introduced, it doesn’t feel forced or overwrought. The film boasts a minimalist elegance that delivers a big impact with limited resources. Absolutely the mark of a brilliant script in the hands of an equally brilliant filmmaker. Well done.
The film would not be as effective as it is without the amazing performances of Theeradej Wongpuapan and Ratnamon Ratchiratham. The characters of Day and Koi bring the necessary human element to The Pool elevating it to something much more interesting than a crocodile creature-feature. Packaged within the stressful survival plot of the film is one of the best love stories this critic has seen in some time.
Both characters are fully dedicated not just to helping each other survive this situation, but to the possibility that awaits them once they make it out. The film expertly uses the film’s high stakes to drive deeply emotional conversations, that get to the bottom of this couple’s relationship. Both roles are performed to perfection, always compelling and rarely cheesy.
The Pool is a Herculean feat of storytelling. It’s thrilling from the very first shot and an escape that seems to fly by. I doubt I will watch another film in 2020 that is as pleasantly surprising. Don’t miss it!
The Pool is available now on Shudder.
The Pool is a Herculean feat of storytelling. It’s thrilling from the very first shot and an escape that seems to fly by. I doubt I will watch another film in 2020 that is as pleasantly surprising. Don’t miss it.
Caitlin is a sweater enthusiast, film critic, and lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began with being shown Rosemary’s Baby at a particularly impressionable age and she’s been hooked ever since. She loves a good bourbon and hates people who talk in movies. Caitlin has been writing since 2014 and you can find her work on Film Inquiry, The Financial Diet, Nightmarish Conjurings, and many others. Follow her on Twitter at @CaitDoes.