The Pool

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Pool
"It's a rare thing to see a crocodile film made by people with a real understanding of crocodile behaviour."

Films which feature characters trapped in simple but wildly unlucky situations go one of two ways. Either the characters are so relentlessly stupid that one wishes they would just hurry up and die, or they're so ingenious and determined that they become fascinating to watch - especially as the film then has to work extra hard to keep them trapped despite that. Happily, The Pool is the latter type of film. Though conceptually slight, it has an appealing put-upon hero in Day (Theeradej Wongpuapan) and a constant flow of ideas to keep up the pace.

We first meet Day when he's working on a film set - a production based around a swimming pool, in which his trained dog Lucky is also a participant. Through a series of complicated circumstances - more convincingly played out than you might expect - he and his girlfriend Koi (Ratnamon Ratchiratham) become trapped in the pool after all the rest of the production team have left. If this weren't bad enough - with no indication of anyone else planning to visit the place - they have to share the space with a large crocodile. Lucky, meanwhile, is chained up just above them, unable to fetch help but keen to alert them when he becomes aware of danger.

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It's a rare thing to see a crocodile film made by people with a real understanding of crocodile behaviour. Not just the usual remorseless eating machine, this one prefers to take her time, lounging around in the sun, confident that her prey isn't going anywhere and waiting for it to weaken. As such, she's a far more interesting opponent, though Day and Koi get the better of her from time to time as they explore what turns out to be a more complex environment than was initially apparent.

The frequency with which things work out in the worst possible way for Day as he tries to resolve their situation verges on farce and this contributes something of its own to the tension, which ebbs and flows so as not to exhaust the audience but never really lets up. At times he seems like a victim of capricious or downright malicious gods, but he also gets a few unlikely breaks just when he needs them most. The theme of luck, common in Thai folklore, is addressed through Koi's possession of a lucky charm which comes to the couple's aid on more than one occasion.

Spending part of the film unconscious, Koi gets less to do but still comes across as a capable individual. Indeed, the film also concerns itself with Day's feeling that she's way out of his league and he doesn't deserve her. Rather than another assured macho hero, he's a man who sorely needs to build up his own confidence. Forced to be brave and resourceful out of necessity, he might just learn something that can help him in the rest of his life - if he gets to live it.

Tightly scripted and played with such assurance that one can keep on believing in it no matter how extreme things get, this is a splendidly economical piece of cinema that will give viewers a real thrill.

Reviewed on: 20 Jul 2020
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The Pool packshot
A young couple are trapped in a dry, six metre deep swimming pool with a crocodile.

Director: Ping Lumpraploeng

Writer: Ping Lumpraploeng

Starring: Theeradej Wongpuapan, Ratnamon Ratchiratham

Year: 2018

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: Thailand

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