The shallow waters of ‘Serenity’

The title of the thriller/psychodrama/melodrama “Serenity” is a misnomer. The film justifies the title because Serenity is the name of a boat where a great deal of the film’s action is set. But, nothing in this schlocky piece of entertainment suggests elements of the serene. The title does not even work in an ironic way since despite all the suggestions of nefariousness that the film sets up, it never gives way to any kinetic force of chaos. In short, the name makes no sense. This is a harbinger of the film to come. Very little in “Serenity” makes sense. Things happen. Plot points move forwards. Conclusions are reached. But the whole of the film never quite coalesces. Instead, “Serenity” ambles at a merciful 100 minutes as a mild curiosity in the careers of its main stars.

As a curiosity, the value of “Serenity” is explicit. As the subject of a review, it is more dubious. If writing about “Serenity” poses some difficulty, I’ll acknowledge that the press team behind the film had a more difficult time in trying to craft a truthful ad campaign for it. I watched the trailer for “Serenity” after seeing it. In responding to the general oddness of the film, I thought that, perhaps, seeing how it was presented to a prospective audience might answer some questions. Except, the trailer for “Serenity” is not quite an honest sell for the film we are given. It, instead, emphasises the varying and competing oddities with which Steven Knight (both writer and director) grounds his film. On its surface, “Serenity” is an erotic thriller. It’s about a very masculine boatman Baker Dill, who lives a solitary life on the sea somewhere in the tropics. The ostensible calm of this life is interrupted by a visit from his ex-wife, both femme fatale and damsel in distress. Her new husband is an abuser and she needs Dill to take him out on his boat and kill him. Otherwise she, and their son, will live a life of continued terror. That’s enough for a film. That film might be unoriginal, and somewhat seedy, but it would be a film. But, this is not the entirety of “Serenity.” “Serenity” is also a film about existential crises, the bond between parent and child, and the general pointlessness of the world. And what’s remarkable about “Serenity” is that it definitely is about all of these things while having little to say about any of them. In fact, “Serenity” performs an incredibly deft trick. It does not seem to have anything to say about… anything…..