All Aboard for ‘Same Boat’

by Warren Cantrell on April 7, 2020

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

A lo-fi romcom featuring writing and acting way above its own paygrade, Same Boat is a delightful little surprise. A Carpe Diem fever dream about love, loss, failure, fate, and time travel, the film juggles several different ideas within a tight space that seems ill-suited for such acrobatics, yet never once falters. And while its practical ambitions might be modest, the emotional thrust of the film is anything but, and hits with all the weight of a picture with ten times the resources and one-tenth the heart.

Same Boat opens with text over a black screen, providing pretty much all the contextual set-up needed for what’s to follow:

In the 29th century, time travel has been achieved. Time travelling assassins have been dispatched throughout history to eliminate individuals who would do damage to the future. The results have been mixed.

The film then introduces the audience to James (Chris Roberti), a calm, passionless assassin about 800 years removed from his own timeline who is doing some on-the-job training with an intern named Mot (Julia Schonberg). When the audience meets the pair, they are quietly killing a couple in 1989 to prevent the rise of reality T.V., though Mot seems to be struggling with the ethics of it all. Although the method of execution is quick and painless, Mot can’t help but to feel bad about the murders, which James explains are necessary not because these are bad people, but because they will inspire bad things.

When the two jump to their next assignment in 2019 aboard a cruise ship, Mot promises to do better, yet finds herself sidelined with a brutal case of sea sickness. Although James has no problem finishing their next murder assignment solo, he becomes sidetracked by the fresh fruit and soft serve ice cream on the ship, and further distracted by a charming passenger, Lilly (Tonya Glanz). The two become fast friends, and despite his best efforts to not fall for someone who might be his great-great-great-great grandmother, he finds himself doing just that. It’s enough to get James to rethink his life’s work and whether he ever wants to return to his own time, which is where his headspace is at when he learns that Lilly is his and Mot’s kill target. It’s a brutal reveal for him, and it pits James’ heart against his duty as not just a killer, but as a mentor/assassin role model.

It’s a fun little set-up, a-la Grosse Pointe Blank meets Back to the Future, and is bolstered by a cruise ship setting that gives the whole thing a unique sense of place. Roberti also directed Same Boat, and did so on the sly during an actual cruise featuring a small cast and what appears to be a lot of gumption. Most of the scenes take place in guest cabins and corners of the ship that appear out of the way of the main action, yet the broader effort never suffers from a lack of scope or grandeur. As James and Lilly wander the corridors and empty parlors of the ship, their connection grows not because of the grand vistas on display but as a result of the patient, understated work of Glanz and Roberti, who allow their characters to find an organic connection in each other.

Roberti also co-wrote the script, which is an exercise in expository restraint and showing instead of telling. Early on the film sets up a few rules that establish the parameters of the time travel technology and how James and Mot operate within that framework, which is just enough to give the premise legs, but not so much that it offers a person string enough to pull and unravel it all. James’ conflict between his heart and his duty as both an assassin and a mentor also come together well not just through the scenes themselves, but in the editing where the two sides of James’ cruise ship life tease at each other. Indeed, the film gives the relationship between Lilly and James all the room it needs to believably grow without abandoning the larger plot point about Mot’s training and their mission.

It’s almost enough to take one’s attention away from the sometimes-shaky camera work and the less inspired supporting performances, which suffer from a script that doesn’t always know how to utilize them. A subplot about Lilly’s recently jilted partner, Rob (Evan Kaufman), and another about two horny cruise ship staffers feel like characters and story beats that wandered in from another movie being filmed on the boat at the same time, yet they represent some of the only spotty work in this remarkably tight, well-assembled effort.

So, yeah: Same Boat floats, and even finds itself with the wind at its back a few times, which propels it further than it probably should. Although the movie contents itself with a slim 82-minute runtime, it leaves room for a few plot twists and developments that are only moderately telegraphed and tie up all narrative and character loose ends. Roberti ably carries the emotional baggage of the film through a well-conceived arc that ties into the clever world building of the script, as well as the growth of James, which fuels the whole thing. And while cruise ships might not be in fashion right now (along with personal contact and tight quarters socializing in general), one should feel no hesitation boarding Same Boat.

“Obvious Child” is the debut novel of Warren Cantrell, a film and music critic based out of Seattle, Washington. Mr. Cantrell has covered the Sundance and Seattle International Film Festivals, and provides regular dispatches for Scene-Stealers and The Playlist. Warren holds a B.A. and M.A. in History, and his hobbies include bourbon drinking, novel writing, and full-contact kickboxing.

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