Ocean State is Ted Ryan’s newest film, following New Yorker, Tim, as he attempts to conquer his phobia of the ocean. To better his chances of following through with his plan, Tim travels to Rhode Island, a place surrounded by the ocean. There, he begins to write an application for grad school, detailing his adventure, tries to deal with his split from his ex-girlfriend, and make friends with the locals. With so much going on right from the beginning, I thought the film was going to be immersive, deep, and intriguing. Unfortunately, the movie never delivers to its potential, leaving the audience wanting more in the end.
Visually, Ocean State is quite bland. Action is sparse. Instead, dialogue and interaction between characters are what visually drive the story. So, it gets quite boring at times when you watch a conversation going and all the shots are the same. Almost all the shots are either too high or too wide; it feels as though the camera is looking down on the characters, creating a disconnect between the characters in the film and with the audience. The audience feels as though they’re lording over the characters, making it hard to empathize with them. However, there were plenty of times when interesting camera angles are used (car ride, argument, entrance into the house after phone call from ex-girlfriend). It’s just a shame that more of it wasn’t used throughout the film, and more use of a tripod would have helped.
What Ocean State really suffers from is never reaching full realization of each idea. From the beginning, the film shows Tim desperately awaiting a call from his ex-girlfriend, Sarah. Memories of Sarah are nostalgic, viewed from Tim’s point of view; however, nothing really happens with Sarah in the film. Tim is clearly eager to talk to Sarah, but nothing is ever put on the line in their relationship. There is no real resolution because there is no conflict. It makes the relationship between Sarah and Tim cheap. She becomes so unimportant that after the middle of the film, she’s never mentioned again. Even though Tim is distraught in the end, the audience can’t really appreciate what he lost and why it’s important.
At the same time, Tim befriends a 16-year-old girl name Rachel. Being out of a relationship and having Rachel around seems like the perfect situation to create a horrible dilemma for Tim. Fraternizing with an attractive minor after getting out of a relationship screams taboo1 There’s a lurking dread that can be felt every time they say hello, with a well-placed fear that Tim might try to start a relationship with Rachel; yet, nothing really happens. They have a good talk and get to know each other better, but they only do this once. At one point in the film, I began wondering what happened to Rachel. It isn’t until the end of the film that she reappears, but by then, it’s too late. Her impact is lost, and her influence over Tim is weak. I’m not going to ruin what happens in the end, but I found myself having a “WTF?” moment. This is one huge part of the story that could have been expanded upon; it would have strengthened Tim’s situation with his phobia and everything else he was dealing with. Instead, the development fell short.
Ocean State is a movie that has grand ideas, but can’t seem to follow through with them. It has broken relationships, high expectations, and realistic desires. It has an intriguing beginning that hypes up the adventure to come. Sadly, that adventure never reaches its climax and instead, slowly coasts on level ground. It is a film that could probably fix all its shortcomings in a remake (with new actors). Hopefully, it’ll get a chance to in the future. Until then, Ocean State sadly awaits to fulfill its potential.
Directed by Ted Ryan.