Building on the critical reception of Teddy, the Boukherma brothers are continuing their career in genre cinema, this time tackling shark films. And if the formula remains the same as for their previous creation, the sauce no longer takes as well. Because Year of the Shark, if it turns out to be daring for French cinema and shows undeniable qualities, clearly has something to divide the public. In particular because of his ambitions, which have a hard time agreeing. So back to this title from the summer of 2022. This missed meeting which, however, had enough to gain a little notoriety in cinemas.
Synopsis of Year of the Shark : Maja, a maritime policeman in the Landes, sees her worst nightmare come true: taking early retirement! Thierry, her husband, has already planned the camping place and the mobile home. But the disappearance of a vacationer puts the whole coast on alert: a shark prowls the bay! Helped by her young colleagues Eugénie and Blaise, she jumps at the chance to offer herself one last mission…
Whether Beast had presented itself as the film of monsters – “dangerous animals”, more precisely – of the summer of 2022, it was however not the only one to want to take advantage of the summer period. Because before this Hollywood product, French cinema tried its hand at the genre by delivering with Year of the Shark our very first national shark film and which, on top of that, was directed by the Boukherma brothers. These same two directors who have won the bet with Teddy to deal with the myth of the werewolf with efficiency and intelligence, all with a good French-speaking feel. In their hands, Year of the Shark could only mark a turning point for French genre cinema. And yet, despite a fairly extensive promotion, success has not been there at all. The public shunned the feature film (barely 121,000 admissions), and critics were rather mixed on the result. Surprising, especially since in terms of narrative structure, the title follows that of Teddy to the letter.
In effect, Year of the Sharkit is literally a tribute to the masterpiece of the genre – here in this case, Jaws – which manages to switch with ease between humor and pure horror. On the one hand we have characters for the less wacky, mocking situations and a rather light tone. On the other, attack sequences that don’t skimp on tension and gore – as the intro sequence can testify. And like Teddy therefore, the whole thing starts off like a comedy bordering on parody, which gradually drifts towards a much more serious and weighty entertainment. Giving the Boukherma brothers the opportunity to place some small, well-placed criticisms – particularly on ecology and the harmful judgment of the media and other social networks. To honor the French Province – here the Atlantic coast – both to reinforce the humor but also to give a real personality to the title. And finally to shout out their love for the shark movie genre. A genre whose codes they manage to reuse with ease, and this without Hollywood means. While offering viewers a multitude of references to Sea teeth : some sequences taken from the film by Steven Spielberg (the attacks, the cage…), the cult replica “We need a bigger boat”, a police shuttle called Mr. Vineyard – in honor of the island Martha’s Vineyard, where was filmed Jaws…
You would have understood it, Year of the Shark initially works. Because we allow ourselves to be carried away without difficulty by its heroine, interpreted by Marina Foïs, in her obsessive quest. We let ourselves be seduced by this humor that does not leave anyone indifferent. And finally, we let ourselves be taken in by the horrific side, which plays the off-screen and suggestion card to the fullest to create real tension. And then, halfway through, everything changes… As if the film suddenly found itself on autopilot, having to come to a conclusion without really knowing how to get there. Of course, the outcome goes through a final confrontation with the shark. But to get there, Year of the Shark seriously struggling to capture as much attention as in its opening minutes.
The fault lies mainly with the fact that, to please the public, the Boukherma brothers had to clumsily juggle between two biases. The one, like Teddy, to make an independent film that can do honor to the genre. And the other, to deliver something more mainstream, more general public to be able to satisfy the audience. So, without much explanation, Year of the Shark abandons its own personality to become a product far too conventional and long to fully convince. The serious taking precedence over the lightness but without captivating as did Teddy. The plot seems to be at a standstill, no longer able to advance its characters and themes to finally close it all with the snap of a finger. Without the slightest ounce of emotion and empathy. And to drive the point home, even the staging is impacted by this change in tone. The latter abandoning the power of suggestion for a much more frontal and coarse result. To the detriment of the lack of means, the directors therefore decide to show their poor rubber shark more and more. Which makes the climax a bit ridiculous, giving the whole thing the air of bad amateur films.
For the moment, it is not difficult to understand why Year of the Shark did not mark the spirits. Let it have as many defenders as resisters. And it’s frankly a shame because, casually, the Boukherma brothers can boast of having merit. For having dared to produce such a work when French genre cinema, although more open than before, is still struggling to find a place in our cinemas. And to express their passion for cinema with so much know-how. They just got way too greedy with this movie. Which makes it a small mistake that the rest of their careers can, without a shadow of a doubt, correct without difficulty.
Year of the Shark – Trailer
The Year of the Shark – Fact Sheet
Directed by: Zoran and Ludovic Boukherma
Screenplay: Zoran and Ludovic Boukherma
Interpretation: Marina Foïs (Maja Bordenave), Kad Merad (Thierry Bordenava), Jean-Pascal Zidi (Blaise), Christine Gautier (Eugénie), Ludovic Torrent (Sébastien/the narrator), Philippe ‘Le Boc’ Prévost (the manager of the ‘Aquapark), Jean Boronat (Ruben), Jean-Jacques Bernède (Dominica)…
Photography: David Cailley
Costumes: Clara Rene
Editing: Béatrice Herminie and Geraldine Mangenot
Music: Amaury Chabauty
Producers: Pierre-Louis Garnon and Frédéric Jouve
Production companies: Les Films Velvet and Baxter Films
Distribution (France): The Jokers
Duration: 87 mins.
Genres: Horror, Comedy
Release date: August 03, 2022
France – 2022