Oh, Mighty Ocean

By Nathan Xia | Drama
A young man tries to ignore his demons, as his entire life crumbles around him.

Jack is a young man living a seemingly carefree life. He goes to the beach, loves his dog and goes to work. He adores his friends and loves going to the beach and watching baseball games with them.

But all isn't what it seems on the surface. Underneath, Jack has some demons that he must face. But he ignores them instead, even as his friends, world and self begin to crumble.

Written and directed by Nathan Xia, this affecting short drama has an amiable look and feel, with its easygoing beachside vibes and almost aspirational veneer. Its sunlit cinematography and warm, lush score augment the feeling of a pleasant life, which Jack details in the film's sparing voiceover. Actor Jack Griffo plays Jack with a casual, devil-may-care demeanor, someone with a winning affection for the people in his life. He's not the life of the party, but the soul of the community.

But in private, Jack is a much more troubled, angrier person. His darker side is revealed not just through Griffo's layered performance but also through a cleverly structured narrative, which reveals the tangle that is Jack's inner self and gets at how the past and present are connected and intertwined.

Yet no amount of compartmentalization can hide the fissures within Jack's psyche, which even pushes away his friends (which include actors Jacob Bertrand and Peyton List from "Cobra Kai.") Faced with intense loneliness from being left on his own -- a disturbing prospect for someone who is rarely alone -- Jack falls into a downward spiral. But only when he hits his lowest point does he begin to find a way out of his shadows.

The gift of a film like "Oh, Mighty Ocean" is its keen observation that deep personal desperation, sadness and pain can exist under even the most serene, cheerful personalities or lifestyles, and it presents this struggle as raw, painful but also very ordinary. Mental health challenges can happen to anyone; no one is immune to the challenges of life.

We don't go into the depths of why Jack is struggling within, but Jack's journey in the film is more about the role that denial or self-evasion plays in keeping him sad, anxious or fearful. As Jack learns, it takes courage to admit that we are struggling and may need help. It's the first step, and though Jack is by no means done by the film's end, he's on a different path -- one whose optimism feels well-earned, and not just plastered on.

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