Eagle vs Shark

Directed by: Taika Waititi
Distributed by: Hoyts Distribution 

Written by Livvy O’Brien


“Eagle vs Shark” is an absolute gem–a quirky indie film that follows two social rejects, as they go on a journey of self-discovery and love. Directed by Taika Waititi, “Eagle vs Shark” is his first feature film which sets the tone of his filmic style with a peculiar sense of humour and underlying emotional depth. Starring Jemaine Clement as Jarrod and Loren Horsley as Lily, these outcasts share an extreme awkwardness, evident in their unconventional love story. 

Lily, an introverted and socially-awkward fast food employee, becomes head over heels for Jarrodd–a nerdy loser who’s seeking vengeance on his high school bully. “Eagle vs Shark” is often compared to the cult classic “Napolean Dynamite” due the to similarities in offbeat characters and deadpan humour. While both films evoke a similar sense of oddity, I find “Eagle vs Shark” to be more emotionally vulnerable which in turn, emerges as a greater heartfelt cinematic experience. Although Jarod and Lily sound like stereotypical social misfits, a characterisation cliche that has been done many times before and may often feel oversaturated in the coming-of-age genre, Waititi delves into why they are the way they are with extraordinary emotional depth. He is brilliant at uncovering humour amid tragedy, a recurring theme in his works. 

Waititi’s use of a unique type of stop-motion to develop the story is something I’ve seen in his previous works, such as “Boy.” These moments seemed out of place at first, but by the end of the film, I’d found the provided an essential piece to the betterment of the film. Lily is very endearing. Jarrod is pretty horrible at times. As an audience, we feel quite protective of Lily and as she becomes more infatuated with Jarrod, we aren’t sure why but we have total faith in her. Horsley’s sweet charm makes for an extremely likable character. She excels as Lily, the shy girl with a fiery spirit which emerges as the film progresses. Her on-screen chemistry with Clement is fantastic. Clement breathes life into Jarrod. He has impeccable comedic timing with blunt and arrogant humour, yet he is also fairly self-deprecating, allowing the audience to pity him and understand Lily’s urge to care for Jarrod. 

“Eagle vs Shark” has been perfectly crafted to speak to anyone who has ever felt like an outcast or battled to find their place in the world. It portrays the beauty in the awkwardness of human interactions efficiently, reminding us that it is our eccentricities that make us actually appealing. Waititi’s distinct style shines through, as he employs the spectacular New Zealand terrain as a stunning backdrop for the protagonist’s adventures, which allows the audience to thoroughly immerse themselves in this enthralling environment. There’s also a terrific scene of a character wearing a t-shirt with Hugh Grant’s mug shot on it, which adds to the film’s oddity. 

“Eagle vs. Shark” is more than a romantic comedy; it’s an admiration of uniqueness and the value of connecting with those who acknowledge us for who we are. Waititi’s ability to pour so much emotion into a story while easily keeping the humour flowing is a testament to his skill as a director. Through the dialogue, he uses Jarrod to profess his passion for directing in “I guess I’ve gotta keep creating or I’ll just die”. “Eagle vs Shark” stands out as a refreshing and sincere jewel. So, if you’re looking for some comforting weirdness and a good dosage of humour, with Clement rocking a mean mullet, do yourself a favour and indulge yourself in the delightful world of  “Eagle vs Shark.”

“Eagle vs Shark” Trailer

You can follow Livvy O’Brien on Letterboxd.

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