FANTASTIC FEST 2022: ‘Year of the Shark’ Doesn’t Know What Kind of Movie It Wants To Be

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Year of the Shark

Sharks have had a long and complicated history in film. While they’re normally not a threat unless provoked or smell blood, they’ve often been portrayed as vicious predators on screen. And though this seems to be changing, especially in the case of anthropomorphic sharks, the toothy mammals are still considered a threat. Year of the Shark attempts to play with this, but its tonal confusion leads to a product that’s mildly amusing at best and wildly unfocused at worst.

Year of the Shark centers on Maja Bordenave (Marina Fois), a member of the Maritime Police whose retirement is impending. She’s at a crossroads: she is looking forward to spending more time with her devoted husband, Thierry (Kad Merad), but she’s dedicated her life to her job. Maja soon finds a new sense of purpose when a shark attack forces her to close the beaches. With the help of her fellow officers, Blaise (Jean-Pascal Zadi) and Eugenie (Christine Gautier), Maja manages to capture the shark…but it breaks free. Now she has to try and recapture it while dealing with a community that’s turned against her.

From the very beginning of the film, tonal whiplash is evident. A brutal shark murder is paired with shots of a summery beach and a whimsical narrator who talks about the events that happened in the film. I won’t mince words: The narrator is the worst part of the movie. A good narrator manages to offer commentary that is either insightful or humorous, and this is neither. Directors Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma, who also penned the screenplay, are missing the most important element of a dramedy: balance. You have to ensure that the comedic elements don’t cut into the impact of the dramatic elements and that the dramatic elements don’t overpower the humor.

Year of the Shark falls into that latter category, unfortunately. Its choice to explore the ups and downs of fame could have been an exciting element, but things get dark when people start to hurl death threats at Maja after the shark escapes. And it gets even darker when a pair of teenagers assault her, claiming she’s responsible for her father’s death. Realistic? Yes. Out of place in this proclaimed “dramedy”? Also yes. The only real funny parts come from the well-timed references to Jaws, including when Maja and her fellow officers close down the beaches. In an era where pop culture shout-outs often land with the subtlety of a brick to the face, it’s well appreciated.

The actors also make the most of the material they’re given, especially Fois. She sells so many scenes with a certain look: inquisitive when investigating the shark attacks, fearful when she learns it’s escaped, and determined when she finally chases it down. And the Boukhermas also deliver some well-composed shots, including a chilling one of a severed nose lying next to a child’s sandcastle. If only the rest of the film had that same level of thought.

Year of the Shark tries its hand at dramedy, but its approach to its story and its tone results in a severe case of mood whiplash. As far as shark movies go, it’s not the worst, but it definitely could have been better.

Year of the Shark is currently playing at Fantastic Fest 2022.


Year of the Shark
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

Year of the Shark tries its hand at dramedy, but its approach to its story and its tone results in a severe case of mood whiplash. As far as shark movies go, it’s not the worst, but it definitely could have been better.

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