I normally review films right after watching them, but the same approach was impossible for Steven Knight’s “Serenity”, who surely knows how to write twisted stories. Firstly, it required my complete attention, to be as objective as possible and leave emotions aside, especially the emotions experienced towards the end of the film that literally left me stunned.
Set in Plymoth Island, “Serenity” follows the captain of the fishing boat called “Serenity”. Baker Dill (beautifully played by Matthew McConaughey) is the best when it comes to catching sharks or whales, however, not so good at catching the most important fish – that cashes in his mind. Things changes when the woman he left behind, his ex-wife Karen comes to him with an offer any other person would have refused. But the man, whether for the sake of old love or because of his only son, Patrick (Rafael Sayegh), agrees to fulfil the woman’s desperate plea but soon finds out it’s not going to be that easy.
When we first meet him, we know nothing about his past life, however, the marks on his face are quite audible. We know that whatever he is going through in his mind is too complicated. His financial situation is not stable. The bank refused to extend his loan. Now he can’t even afford gas. Constance (Diane Lane), the woman from the island, is the only one that helps him feel needed, even though he only gets paid on times he shares with her the same bed. His assistant, Duke (Djimon Hounsou), does not have much energy or patience to put up with Baker’s mood that goes up and down. But all that changes in an unpredictable way when Karen (Anne Hathaway) appears in a bar with a secret agenda.
“I came to tell you that you were right, and I was wrong”, she begins her plea, then she continues, “It’s about Frank (Jason Clarke). He got richer, bigger and dranker”. By then Baker did not know about her abusive relationship with her violent husband. But the scene where Frank begins examining Karen’s body for a sign that might have been left by someone else is one of the most impactful scenes of 2019. That scene alone (powerfully portrayed by Anne Hathaway) is enough to see that she is no longer the girl from “The Princess Diary”, and the roles she can tackle now are far deeper, emotional, broken, and profound.
The film has so many clues and so many hints that it is hard to follow them at the same time. We also learn that Baker has a strong connection with his son Patrick, and they talk to each other no matter what part of the world they are in. We also learn about why Karen and Baker had to get divorced and why Patrick was left with his mother. We see that both Karen and Baker have a fragile personality, it’s just a matter of time who will get broken first.
Jeremy Strong’s Reid Miller is another charismatic character that should be followed closely. Even his appearance in a few scenes shows the depth of Reid’s impact on Baker’s life, choices, and why Strong was the best choice to breath life into such a crucial individual. And the great Diane Lane, after watching the whole film and understanding what it was all really about, you will come to realize that despite such a small role, she plays a very important part in Baker’s life, as a woman who keeps his sanity intact. However, the central character is Rafael Sayegh’s Patrick, who we don’t see much or hear from at all, but the one line he delivers will haunt you over the course of the film, especially knowing all the previous pieces written by Steven Night, lines like this never get written for nothing – “If I would not catch fish all day, I would find a way to kill you”, an upset Patrick tells Frank.
That said, “Serenity” is more than just about catching fish, an estranged ex-wife that appears with the offer or the island that seemingly exists on its own. An island where no one ever dies or the rule that can be broken anytime. It is about the man that has willingly or unwillingly distanced himself from the family and now the same family reappears in his life almost like it never left him nor did he. It’s about the connection between a father and son. But what prevails the most in Knight’s full of twist film is the serene mind, plentiful imagination, and the opportunity that must be taken when the chance to redeem the past and correct mistakes is being offered. Baker Dill will surely get one. But how things turn out, I am sure, you’ll be happy to find out by watching it yourself.