For an ideal beach read, you tend to pick a book where the meet-cute tumbles into a sea of head-over-heels emotions, family drama sizzles like a barbeque, and a war of words charges at your thumping heart. Then, just like it had come, the emotions vanish; you close the book and set it aside, ready to pick out your next read. “Float” (2023) is a 100-minute-long film version of a beach read. That it is an adaptation of a Wattpad story by Kate Marchant is perhaps why this movie constantly feels like something you’d love to read instead on your electrical devices. Directed by Sherren Lee, this rom-com willingly confines itself inside a bubble that shields its characters from reality.
Waverly (played by Andrea Bang) is a medical school student who is visiting her aunt on a summer break. When she arrives at the beach town of Tofino, you can already estimate from the size of the airport that people barely fly in and out of this town. The truth is worse: no one who comes here ever leaves it (and not in a creepy suspense-thriller way!) Waverly clearly has two problems: she shares a dysfunctional relationship with her parents and doesn’t know how to swim. Of the two, conquering the latter seems easy because her neighbor is a handsome, responsible lifeguard, Blake (played by Robbie Amell).
The two are easily attracted and strike up a summer romance. It seems like an ideal way to spend your summer in the early twenties – tucked away in a remote town, mixing drinks at a local bar, and strolling near the beach. However, Waverly’s parents want her in Toronto, where she was initially supposed to be for the summer, and Blake is not sure how he wishes to proceed with the ‘summer fling.’ Of course, they figure out a resolution. However, the conflict never reaches a peak; it gently simmers and then dies down, offering no catharsis for your emotions.
Bang is an actor I have admired ever since I binge-watched “Kim’s Convenience,” and I look forward to her works. She neatly packs the grace and awkwardness of a stranger in a new neighborhood into her role. Amell acts more with his body than with his performance. You start to psychoanalyze their relationship after a point when you realize that Waverly may probably be attracted to Amell because he is the embodiment of a parent figure. Why this presumption? It is because we aren’t made a party to enough conversations between the two of them to understand the groundwork of their relationship.
The only times we see them together on screen, they don’t display the kind of chemistry that you’d want to play out in a Taylor Swift music video. It seems to be born in cold water, with the director trying very hard to establish their intimacy by zooming into Amell’s fingers every time he touches Bang’s character with affection during their swimming practice – the latter feels like a technical blooper. To be honest, their relationship is one of the best and worst aspects of the movie.
Waverly’s relationship with her parents seems to draw upon a particularly Asian immigrant experience. I only wish the story delved more into the complexities of her identity or her choices due to the same. Even when Waverly is in conversation with her maternal aunt, we never quite get a scope to understand why Waverly has appeared in Tofino. Similarly, Blake is seen feeling flustered when dealing with the grief of his parent’s death and the responsibility of being a guardian to his younger sister, but the story shies away from deep diving into it. Other characters too float in and out of the main plot without quite contributing to it. All of this makes “Float” (2023) a strictly mediocre rom-com that manages to stay afloat because of the neutral color palette and some well-shot scenes.
Floating is this swimming technique – for the uninitiated – where you lie with your arms stretched out and your head tipped upwards on the surface of the water. It is about achieving the perfect equilibrium. “Float” (2023) never achieves this buoyancy, wobbling unsteadily from the first scene to the last. It tries to make the audience feel relaxed and summery but loses itself in the lackluster storytelling. If you wish to watch “Float” (2023), remember to keep a lifejacket (read: snacks) handy!