The Perfect Wave
DIRECTOR: Bruce Macdonald
CAST: Scott Eastwood, Jack Halloran, Cheryl Ladd, Rachel Hendrix
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

LOCALLY made surfer film The Perfect Wave is an awkward mix of surfer spirituality and hit-you-over-the-head reborn Christian fundamentalism.

On the surfer spirituality side the beautiful cinematography gorgeously brings to life the solitary pursuit of the surfer for a perfect wave and hence a moment of eternity, the closest you will come to touching God.

When it comes to the reborn Christian aspect the film is preaching to the converted – it comes down heavily on the idea that only reborn Christians know the way.

The story is based on the real-life Damascus moment of surfer turned Christian evangelist Ian McCormick (Eastwood).

It starts off painting a picture of a 24-year-old who wants nothing better to do than live in the moment as he travels the world’s best surfing spots with his cousin Greg (Halloran).

Early on we are introduced to the idea that he is the black sheep of his oh-so-perfect family. But that’s okay, they are praying for him.

Theirs is a hermetically sealed little world reflected not only in the tight-knit circle they move in, but the way McCormick views the places he travels to – he never immerses himself in another culture, holding himself at arm’s length while praising the locals for making do with so little.

All manner of local South African surfers like Roxy Louw and Matt Bromley pop up on beach scenes filmed in New Zealand, Australia, Bali, Mauritius and South Africa which lend the film a realistic, real-world feel.

The big budget (with more than half raised by private investors and a lot of help from the Department of Trade and Industry) was put to good use to create a well-graded production.

The film is strangely un- dramatic, though, thanks to a pedestrian pacing when it comes to furthering the story.

Any sense of flair introduced by the surfing scenes is undone by the clichéd story. What would have been dramatically intense would have been to start the story with the ending – with McCormick’s near-death experience which led to his conversion. The subsequent effort to persuade people that his conversion was genuine and heartfelt must have been difficult in the extreme.

When it comes to films, watching how difficulty is overcome and people are made stronger by the naysayers is inherently more dramatic than watching pretty young people have conservative (by comparison to what comes to our big screen out of Hollywood) fun on the beach.

Releasing in 35 cinemas across South Africa, the film is supported by a grass-roots marketing drive that has taken the filmmakers around the country, introducing their work at churches which should start a groundswell.

But this is Faith Like Potatoes all over again – it works if you already believe in this very specific way, and if you don’t you don’t particularly care.

If you liked Fireproof or The Horse Whisper you’ll like this.