Breaking Surface Review – Suspenseful, A Riveting Under-Water Thriller

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Breaking Surface, featured at the AFI European Union Film Festival, presents a thrilling, nail-biting, suspenseful underwater drama, which pits two experienced divers against the extreme elements in the freezing Nordic waters of the Norwegian coast.

The film begins in flashback as Ida, played by Moa Gammel, pops up out of the water screaming for her mother. Her half-sister, Tuva, played by Madeleine Martin, is stuck under the reef. Rescued by the quick action of her mother, the nearly drowned Tuva is saved.

Moving quickly to present day, Ida is returning for a holiday visit. Raised on the water, she is skilled although not as experienced as Tuva, who works troubleshooting mechanical issues underwater on large vessels and as we see she manages the unexpected with self-confidence and assurance.


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The two decide to take a winter dive in a remote fjord on the Norwegian coastline. As with most sisters, they have jealousies, they bicker and clearly as is shown the relationship with their mother is starkly different.

While they are preparing for the dive in a small cove surrounded by sheer cliffs, a tremor causes a small rock to drop near their equipment. Believing it would be safer near a crevasse in the cliff, the move everything, extra air tanks, phones, bags, to the split in the rocks.

Tuva is clearly the most experienced and is prepared with two-way diver radio communications equipment and although more daring, is rigid with safety first. Ida, a little more trepidatious when it comes to the deep-sea diving as it has been some time.


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As they complete the first passage, the tunnel opens into unobstructed waters. Swimming close two Orca whales appear from the shadow and pause, producing instant panic in Ida. Tuva explains they are only curious. A vibration causes them to dart into the deep darkness. And a small rockslide tumbles from the cliff striking Ida.

Not enough to knock her out, she looks up to see a slab striking the water and screaming through her communications to Tuva to swim back. We see Tuva's flashlight quickly fading into the unfathomable abyss.

From the depth we hear her calm voice over the radio instructing Ida on her location. We hear she is pinned and unable to pull herself out, with limited air still available. The clock is ticking and her only hope for survival is her sister.


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This is the point Breaking Surface moves into the race against time. As Ida surfaces to call for help, she sees the rockslide has barricaded their equipment and she is left to either follow the calm directions of her sister to secure their rescue or attempt to try another way.

Realizing they are completely cut off from any chance of outside rescue, the options are limited and the window for survival is quickly closing. Depleting oxygen, extreme pressure and freezing temperatures are only the beginning of the problems the sisters need to work through if they hope to live.

As the frantic race unfolds, she is forced to use every ounce of her intelligence and resourcefulness to find a way to do the impossible.

Breaking Surface, a nail-biting, riveting thriller, grips the attention.  Fast-moving, the talent captures the panic, fear, and powerlessness that intensifies with each scene as all efforts fail. 

Intense and spellbinding, Breaking Surface, an 82 minute pure adrenaline rush,  is a must see!


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An AFI European Union Film Festival U.S. premiere, also an Official Selection in the 2020 Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival, Fantasy Filmfest, Reykjavík International Film Festival and Nightstream Film Festival, Breaking Surface is available to viewers located anywhere in the United States and U.S. Territories via this link. https://afieu.eventive.org/welcome

Year - 2019

Runtime - 82 minutes

Language - Swedish, Norwegian with English Subtitles.

Country - Sweden, Norway, Belgium

Director - Joachim Hedén

Screenwriter - Joachim Hedén

Producer - Julia Gebauer, Jonas Sörensson

Cast - Moa Gammel, Madeleine Martin

Image courtesy of AFI European Film Festival, #AFIFilmeu

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