Facing Monsters. M, 94 minutes. 4 stars
With nothing in the way of human traffic moving between Western Australia and the eastern states at present, this picture-postcard of a documentary about a gifted surfer might be the closest you get to the golden light and the windswept beaches of WA for some time.
Go see this film and lap it up, I say, because it is so beautifully shot that in many places throughout it is actually better than being on a West Australian beach, particularly when that afternoon wind picks up and just starts sand-blasting your face.
Cinematographer Rick Rifici did the beautiful work capturing the wave movement in Simon Baker's Breath and here he lets rip on some of the most glorious lens work. The ocean is an ever-moving canvas and Rifici is an artist.
The film opens with a lush pink that, you notice eventually, is peppered with ripples and as the camera pans back we meet surfer Kerby Brown floating on his back, taking in the sky, his board attached to his leg, and the camera pulls up into that sky.
Visually it's a serene and strong opening.
It is the last moment of serenity as the filmmakers spend much of the rest of the film following Brown and his brother Courtney on their quest for the ultimate monster wave and adrenaline rush amongst the giant surf up and down the WA coast.
This isn't a quixotic quest - they find it often and even when Brown is nearly killed by one wave, the quest does not end.
The monsters of the film's title aren't just the enormous waves: the monster is quite obviously inside Kerby and needs to be fed. When it isn't the pounding surf - we meet Brown's future wife and the pair move to the city - it is drugs and alcohol that Brown has to conquer.
Enabling, or perhaps just being a great support network, are brother Courtney who has spent decades helping Kerby catch these beastly wall-like waves, and dad Glenn, standing by as support and potential first-aid.
We visit a couple of locations in the film but one in particular features a rock plateau jutting out just as the ocean shelf plunges away, so that giant mid-ocean sized waves hit the landscape, forming towering tubes of surf.
Courtney tows Kerby behind his jet ski and at just the right moment, Brown is there surfing frighteningly huge waves over a thin water veneer covering jagged rocks and corals. His skill, his balance and his bravado carry him over.
At one point, Kerby holds up a piece of the rock plateau he surfs over to show his son - it looks like a butcher's block of razor sharp rock points.
Filmmaker Bentley Dean made the 2015 film Tanna in Vanuatu, a Romeo and Juliet story that was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award and won Dean the cinematography award at the 2015 Venice Film Festival.
Dean might hand the camera here to Rick Rifici but his eye for a shot and a story is strong.
It's not narrative-rich. It's actually quite a simple tale. Boy's first and enduring love is the ocean which he leaves for a brief time but is drawn back, health and safety be damned. It is, in fact, a lot like that great surfer act of watching the sea, and we watch Kerby do this throughout the film.
To some, it looks like not a lot is going on, but those who grew up watching the ocean understand that patterns are being observed, thoughts are being slowly formed.
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