Directed by Joshua Wong and written by Heather Gornall, a young woman lives, hidden in plain sight in a ruined Hong Kong building after a tsunami destroyed the city, her concealed existence is changed forever when a small child literally floats into her life. Starring: Kara Wang, Sarinna Boggs, Terence Yin, Joyce Cheng and Jai Day.
Whereas most films in the disaster arena try to capture all the death and destruction, The Calm Beyond takes a much more restrained approach. It focuses on family and regrets, not appreciating what we have, while we have it. However, it leans a little too heavily into those themes, resulting in a sentimental story with only sporadic moments of tension. It’s an unusual tact to take with a story set in such a drastic world, moving slowly and missing out on a stronger tone. Even taking into account the blooming relationship between Asha (Wang) and Hei Hei (Boggs), it isn’t enough to build a significant heart or depth of emotion to anchor the film.
It feels as though it’s missing a strong hand at the wheel to decide what it wants to be. It’s a quality that stands out most with its finale, with only the odd moment of tension or fear, it then tries to switch it into high gear and comes across out of place. There’s a huge disconnection between these scenes and the rest of the film which then simply undermines it as a whole. Particularly in trying to give weight to its cliched heartless scavengers, who have had precious little involvement up until that point. Visually it also feels weak, the palette is dull, the effects aren’t very convincing, the editing is messy and the disaster footage feels like a poor fake news reel. Everything just isn’t working at full capacity here to give you something to truly invest in, so it struggles to make an impression.
However, Kara Wang as Asha gives an undeniably solid performance, for the majority of the film, set in the present, she portrays her character well as strong, resilient, smart and resourceful. Unfortunately the writing doesn’t give her much to work with in the flashback portions, running down some stereotypical and short lived routes. Sarinna Boggs does a great job as Hei Hei, she’s sweet and savvy, has a few unexpected tricks up her sleeve and easily trusts Asha, despite being previously alone. The two have a charming connection, watching them care for one another, work together and bring out the best in each other is enjoyable. It’s the best thing the film has going for it but sadly, it isn’t enough to sustain it.
The Calm Beyond is unfortunately working with an unoriginal premise and while its lead characters are sweet and entertaining, it isn’t bringing anything new enough to the table. It feels somewhat confused about the story it’s trying to tell, for the most part it’s a sentimental story of family but then randomly throws in moments of tension and violence. The two don’t go together smoothly here, and what you end up with is a relatively slow paced drama, set in a harsh world we know little about, with an emotional story which never digs very deep and some cliched, minimally appearing bad guys.