The Surface is about a man who feels like he has hit rock bottom and is ready to take his own life. Sean Astin plays Mitch Lowe who one day decides to fill his bird feeder for the last time and take the family boat out to commit suicide by drinking nitroglycerin. It’s a dramatic end to a tragic life and Mitch feels like this is what he should do, but before he can go through with it, he comes across a plane wreckage and a crash survivor and everything changes.
Sean Astin delivers a heartfelt and somber performance that really elevates the film to become inspiring. This is a low-budget independent movie that takes place almost entirely on the water in a small boat with our two main characters delivering expository dialogue at each other. This is a story where two men work together to overcome their personal demons just so they can survive being stranded in the middle of this massive body of water. What really helps is that to counter Sean Astin’s dour portrayal, is the brash and blunt performance made by the great Chris Mulkey as Kelly, a weathered everyman trying to do anything he can to preserve his family.
The Surface begins with Mitch visiting his invalid mother in the hospital and it is established early on that he is her only support. His father has passed away due to a terrible accident that we lean more about later on as Mitch and Kelly exchange stories. When Mitch decides to commit suicide, he makes sure that all of his affairs are in order before venturing out, and when he unexpectedly comes across Kelly floating among the debris of his crashed passenger plane, he goes into full-on empathy and survival mode. As we learn more about these two, we find out that Kelly may be transporting illegal goods. This leads the two to believe that they may be killed over a failed delivery attempt.
This film could work extremely well on stage due to the static location we are in for the majority of the runtime and the amount of dialogue that our characters exchange. If it weren’t for the excellent performances from both Sean Astin and Chris Mulkey, this would likely be a flat and bland film with a weak premise and message. The real meat and potatoes of The Surface comes from these two working together very well on screen. Mimi Rogers appears briefly to help illustrate Kelly’s tale regarding his home life and the way the backstories are presented helps with the steady pace and tone of the picture. It’s all put together well and very little detracts from the overall message. This is a story of hope and overcoming tragedy and it works.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars