Diving movies have always been done poorly. They have these one-dimensional stories, cheap budgets and almost always focus on a fake looking shark. I truly believe there is so much untapped potential here. Imagine a psychological thriller focusing on a single man diving to the depths of the ocean. A man who is slowly losing his mind – unsure what he is seeing down below. Then, I heard of the Underwater Welder…
If you haven’t heard of this book, let me give you a brief summary.
The Underwater Welder is a graphic novel written by Jeff Lemire. It focuses on Jack Joseph – an oil rig repairer off the coast of Nova Scotia. As he dives deeper and deeper, he pulls further further away from his wife and unborn son. Slowly, we learn about Jack’s past as mysterious and supernatural events start happening on the ocean floor.
This graphic novel is one of the most emotionally complex and moving pieces I have ever read. It explores some deep (ignore the pun) themes like grief, regret, birth, death, and fear. On top of this, it has this perfect mystery that made me finish the whole novel in one night. The Underwater Welder is the definition of a page turner and doesn’t resort to cheap tactics like some authors (Dan Brown, J.K Rowling I am looking at you). It keeps you glued to the book because of the characters not because of a lazy plot.
I know there is this boomer perception that graphic novels are for kids or just cheap imitations of books, but this novel proves how fucking stupid that is. It uses the art to display how lonely and dark our main characters life truly is. A man so filled with grief and fear he is trapped in a haunting and depressing world. Even the transitions are simply perfect. The book has this beautiful flow that feel as if you are watching the events right in front of you. Simply put, you can see the care and passion Lemire has put into each frame of this novel.
Rumours of a Film
In March 2017, it was reported by deadline that Ryan Gosling (from films such as Remember the Titans and uhhh… yeah that’s about it) and Ken Kao (Producer of the Nice Guys, Mid 90s and the Favourite) were bringing the Underwater Welder to the big screen. Since then, we have not seen or heard anything about this film so I can only assume its dead in the water (I know, another pun…). So as per usual, let me give you the 44clovers version of this novel.
The 44 Clovers Pitch
The Underwater Welder would be an incredible psychological horror / drama. For me, the ideal run time would be around 90 minutes, so it doesn’t drag.
The novel’s core story has to be kept the same. To respect Jeff Lamire, it has to focus on a blue collared character, grief and the fear of birth. All these elements already work so it shouldn’t be too hard. In my head, the film is a Western set on a coastal town (I know that sounds weird). Imagine No Country for Old Men or Hell or High Water but underwater. I think this is imperative to accentuate how horrible and depressing this town truly is. Also, I like how quiet these films are and their slow but delicate pacing.
As with the book, the diving scenes need to show how isolated Jack truly is. I would shoot the underwater scenes as if he is in space, a dark and harrowing landscape surrounding him. The lighting would be very simple to really highlight the nothingness around him. Everything must be done physically, or it just won’t work. Similar to Jaws or 13 Lives, I truly believe this film only works if it feels as real and dangerous as possible. A perfect example is Top Gun or Mission Impossible. The stunts have this incredible effect on the audience where you on the edge of your seat because you know it’s real. Imagine how horrifying seeing someone at the depths of the ocean in would truly be. Exactly
The film would need to focus more on the psychological horror then the book. I love the elements of him slowly loosing his mind and blacking out but feel this needs to be expanded. I think he should go on 3 dives and each one he is slowly seeing more shit. The watch, his father’s body, a diving mask etc etc. Each item getting more and more horrifying. As the film moves forward, it keeps building up until the audience is questioning if he is completely sane. Think Lighthouse, It Follows, I’m Thinking of Ending Things.
I would cast Sam Rockwell as Jack Joseph. I know he has done Moon and it is similar, but I think he would be perfect for this role. He has this scruffy chaotic attitude in films like the Way Way Back and Jojo Rabbit I think he can tap into very well. While I never love actors doing dramatic weight changes, I do think it is important he looks kind of scrawny and drained all the time.
For his father – Sam Elliot, he is built for this role (the moustache helps). Finally, his wife. I think Toni Collete would be perfect. On top of being an incredible actress, she always has a tired look that matches the wife perfectly.
Daniel Hart as always. My favourite composer right now who I believe can do absolutely any film perfect.
Director / Cinematography
I mean James Cameron would be excellent because of his obsession with the ocean but even in my dreams he is denying it. For my round 2 draft pick, I think Leigh Whannel would be incredible and probably better than James Cameron. His blend of horror and character development in the Invisible Man is perfect for this film. For cinematography, I would take Greig Fraser as my number one pick. I know he is now the biggest cinematographer in the world, but I love the colours and looks of Dune and Batman (plus hes Aussie).
Ultimately, I just think this is a film that hasn’t been made and should be. Since A24 is clearly the best production company in the industry right now, they should buy the rights to this film. It screams A24. The story, the characters, the horror – it is made for them. So hopefully, one day we will see this made and not just through a Hollywood production company but through creators who care.