Deep Ocean: Drowning Feelings Within

Dive into the feelings of a young man as he falls in love with his straight best friend. Will his feelings successfully reach him, or will they sink their cherished friendship? Read our recap of ‘Deep Ocean‘.

An official selection in the 2022 Taiwan Queer Film Festival, “Deep Ocean” is a Taiwanese short movie that premiered in August 2022. It features Chiao Yuan Chu as Lai Fan and Mike Lin as his best friend Tao Yang and is directed by To Kao as his first picture.

 

Warning: This recap contains spoilers of the film.

 

Blob… blob… blob…blob…

The film starts with a deep water sound as Lai Fan stands in the darkness of his room, which seems engulfed underwater. The sound deafens the silence in his mind.

Splash… splash… splash…

The waves of the Pacific Ocean splash as Lai Fan sits on one of the boulders on his school uniform, adorned with his graduation ribbon.

Slosh… slosh… slosh…

Tao Yang, Lai Fan’s best friend, is swimming at the school pool as Lai Fan waits patiently. Tao Yang pauses as he approaches Lai Fan, which causes the latter to ask as to why he is cutting his swimming time short. With a grin on his face, the other responds that he doesn’t want to keep Lai Fan waiting. The two dry themselves at the washroom, and Lai Fan cannot help but glance at Tao Yang’s naked torso. He looks away after.

The two are hanging out when Tao Yang inquires as to why Lai Fan, who is skilled in swimming, gave up the sport. He responds that swimming in a pool is boring, the water is smelly, and there is no scenery. Lai Fan is explaining when Tao Yang, who has been staring at him, suddenly says, “You are handsome,” taking him off guard. He makes an effort to cover up his discomfort by offering to assist Tao Yang with his work, but Tao Yang pushes him off when they get too close.

The pair goes to the ocean for a swim, playing around. Lai Fan dares Tao Yang to follow him and jump into a much deeper area, teasing him that he is the better swimmer out of the two of them. Tao Yang jumps and says he’s not afraid. They talk about the difference between being at the pool and in the ocean when Lai Fan suddenly finds himself alone. He panics when his legs get pulled down, submerging him underwater. Their eyes open underwater, and a glimpse of him standing alone in his water-engulfed room flashes. The two rise above the water.

Alone in his room, Lai Fan begins to touch himself and imagines Tao Yang kissing him. The vivid imagination of Tao Yang hovers over Lai Fan while removing their clothing. Flashes of Tao Yang’s gaze and Lai Fan tumbling into the water can be seen. Lai Fan opens his eyes and sees Tao Yang standing outside his window, staring at him. The next morning, he wakes up and stares at his crotch under the blanket.

Back at their school, Lai Fan sees Tao Yang arguing with his girlfriend, Li Xiao Tan, over unreplied messages. Tao Yang makes an apology attempt and follows Li Xiao Tan as she walks out. Curious, Lai Fan sneaks behind the couple as they get into an empty classroom. Tao Yang and Li Xiao Tan start making out as Tao Yang tries to pacify her, while Lai Fan watches in anguish.

Lai Fan begins to avoid Tao Yang, which the latter notices when the former no longer waits for him after practice and even goes swimming by himself. Frustrated, Tao Yang knocks on Lai Fan’s door and gets ignored. Now angry, Tao Yang corners Lai Fan at the school and asks him what is with avoiding him lately and if he does not like him anymore. Lai Fan looks down as Tao Yang continues to confront him. Irritated with not getting any answers from Lai Fan, Tao Yang asks him mockingly if he likes him. Tao Yang tugs on Lai Fan to elicit a response but is startled to see him crying. Lai Fan ignores Tao Yang’s question about whether or not he is serious and instead simply turns to face the opposite side of the room. Following his glance, Tao Yang discovers Li Xiao Tan. He orders Lai Fan to stop joking as his girlfriend is there, but the latter just walks away.

In the middle of the night, Lai Fan wakes up after sobbing his heart out and is startled to hear the loud sound of running water. He goes out of his room and finds a little pool of water starting to form in the hallway. The place seems to be engulfed in water. From then on, Lai Fan starts having multiple dreams of drowning and being submerged underwater. He also dreams of when he saw Tao Yang and Li Xiao Tan making out inside the empty room, only this time, Li Xiao Tao is replaced by himself. Lai Tan continues to have romantic nightmares involving Tao Yang and being touched by unidentified hands.

Woken up by the sound of the doorbell, Lai Fan finds Tao Yang outside his room. The two go outside to talk. Over some cans of beer, Tao Yang begins sharing his thoughts and feelings with Li Xiao Tao. He talks about feeling like a bad boyfriend and thinking that making love can fix their problem, and Lai Fan silently listens. The two walk back, with Tao Yang following Lai Fan behind. He stops in the middle of the road, causing Lai Fan to turn around. They both look at one another intently.

Graduation day comes, and Lai Fan looks over the window of the classroom miserably and goes to the ocean, crying. Lai Fan starts to swim back and forth to the place where he and Tao Yang spent time together. He sits on one of the boulders, looking at the vast water, until the sun sets, and the film soundtrack continues to play.

I need to know if you’re up for this, can you take this place from me?

 

If the two got together or the nightmares Lai Fan had were just dreams, the movie’s ending is left up to the viewers to determine.

 

Watch ‘Deep Ocean’  now on GagaOOlala.

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