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Savage Sands

average rating is 3 out of 5


Chris Buick


Posted on:

Mar 1, 2024

Film Reviews
Savage Sands
Directed by:
James Cunningham
Written by:
James Cunningham
Eric Kay

Having washed ashore on a remote island, a man (Kay) must battle the elements, frustration and coconuts in order to stay sane and survive.


There are a lot of elements to like, perhaps even love about Savage Sands. While for some the thought of having a beautifully remote landscape all to yourself might be appealing initially, we can surely all appreciate that the harsh reality of survival would inevitably come crashing down. And those dualistic themes are where writer/director James Cunningham hits all the right notes.


Firstly, the film looks stunning. Cunningham has a real knack for the visually striking and brings that idyllic, wow-look-at-that nature of island life right to the fore. Then in contrast to that, through their writing and presentation of the film, Cunningham is equally able to fully emphasise that overwhelming sense of solitude and dispiritedness that would sooner or later come for all of us, slowly sinking deeper into insanity and becoming completely unattached from reality, which is exactly the journey we go on with our castaway here, Cunningham forcing us to be the silent observer of it all.

However, the film is bloated with similarity, and despite it nailing it’s desired feeling as mentioned, Savage Sands is a very slow film to watch. Starting with the film’s intro for instance, which flits between the chaos of a torrential storm at sea and the quiet tranquillity of island life quite nicely and certainly adds an element of drama to proceedings, ends up taking too long to get things up and running at which point that sense of drama and perhaps attention has begun to wane.


And this issue is what unfortunately hampers Savage Sands from realising its full potential. Much of the rest of the films nearly half hour runtime is made up of very similar scenes stitched together by occasional moments of interest such as our castaway finding a watch, or a Wilson ball (which is a funny little nod). Other than that, our castaway spends most of his time (and ours) going through the motions of gathering wood, exercising and aimlessly meandering along the beach looking bored. There are also elements of story that aren’t cohesive, or we as the audience miss out on completely. A recurring point of the plot involves our characters inability to open a coconut, a fun plot point to link it all together that to be fair does have a significant pay off in the end.


However, after the initial what can be supposed is few days or maybe even weeks, the film jumps forward to “years later”, where our castaway still can’t open a coconut, but has managed to build a very nice hammock, retain weight and find a way to shave? Plausibility aside, we don’t get to enjoy any of these story elements that would have given the film a bit more variety. And yes, it does all work to help convey that formidable sense of frustration and loneliness that they were going for, but it’s more like a series of little vignettes of island life than a complete story that could either have shown more, or if not feasible, made what is there a bit leaner.


Savage Sands absolutely showcases Cunningham’s talent as a filmmaker and their ability to create a feast for the eyes, while also evoking a veritable feeling, but perhaps could have benefitted from being either a little bit more streamlined or providing a little more context.

About the Film Critic
Chris Buick
Chris Buick
Short Film
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