I’ve never seen a surf movie before. I was pleasantly surprised. Without even thinking about it the back of my mind (i.e. my prejudices) thought that all surf movies are simply depictions of surf moves, waves and the youth seeking empty pleasures and adrenalin kicks on the beach accompanied by upbeat songs. Big Wednesday had all of the above, but it also had depth, a story line and character development.
Its primary theme is about the friendship. It was also done 30 years ago, when it was still OK for major Hollywood production not to have a 100 percent happy ending. I.e. some of the friendships shown do not endure the years that the movie covers: friends move away from each other not just in their interest and mentality, but geographically too. I take it back, these friends shared one big interest (surfing) that triumphs over whatever issues they may have with each other. I never surfed (windsurfing for half an hour on a lake when I was seventeen doesn’t count) and I never had this kind of friendship with male friends, where we would share one interest or sport for a decade or more. Thus I am not really in the position to judge this aspect of the movie, but I do have admiration for the protagonists and their passion.
The movie has more to offer though. The Vietnam War is a subtext that rules the second half of the movie. The draft scenes, where most of the friends manage to get out of the army, but one ends up oversea for years; the scene where they say goodbye to their friend not knowing whether he will return or not; the hero’s return from the war, these are all memorable, powerful and well choreographed examples of sharing the anxiety of war, without actually showing fights.
Struggle with alcoholism, the ups and downs of economic success (and how it can influence one’s behavior), how parenting style can end up being hereditary, intersexual relationships were some of the other areas of the film where one could observe that serious and high quality thoughts were put into the script.
Now that I know that a surf movie can be about more than surfing (which bores me to watch after a few minutes) I will not automatically exclude them when I am thinking what movie to watch next. I bet there are other good ones out there.