Stephanie in the Water

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Stephanie in the Water Movie Poster Image
Surfer docu has dark moments but stays light, uplifting.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 70 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The value of perseverance, ambition, determination, and drive in succeeding and not giving up after great setbacks.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gilmore is an incredibly driven, optimistic, go-with-the-flow type of personality who lives and breathes her sport and craft. Even after being physically attacked at random she insisted on getting back out there and getting back to the top of her game.

Violence

No graphic images, but a section devoted to news reports and verbal descriptions of Gilmore being attacked by a homeless man with a steel pole, hit over the head, and requiring numerous stitches and recovery time.

Sex
Language

"Damn," "balls," one mumbled "f---k off."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stephanie in the Water is a sports documentary about Australian world champion surfer Stephanie Gilmore. It has a section that discusses an act of brutal violence against Gilmore when she was beaten with a steel pole by a homeless man, but there are no graphic images, only verbal descriptions and news reports. There is some profanity ("damn," "balls," and one quick, mumbled "f---k off"). Otherwise the docu is a meditation on Gilmore's talent, art, approach to surfing, drive, and dedication, particularly in the aftermath of the attack. Best for teens with an interest in the sport, particularly girls, as it addresses some of the challenges Gilmore faces as a woman in the sport.

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What's the story?

Five-time world champion surfer Stephanie Gilmore discusses her low-key, artful approach to surfing, her feelings about her drive and ambition, and her road to recovery after a vicious physical attack.

Is it any good?

A deep dive into the career of world champion surfer Stephanie Gilmore, this captivating film is filled with gorgeous shots of pink sunsets and radiating azure waves. It mostly cruises along like an impressionistic, low-key conversation with Gilmore's head space. And for teens interested in surfing and the culture and philosophy of a beach life, it has a nice rhythm. Gilmore discusses her ambition and hesitation about competing, her artful approach to movement on the board, and what it's like to wake up every day knowing you have a title to maintain.

There's a dark moment in the discussion of her tragic physical attack, but for such a happy-go-lucky woman with such a natural, confident talent, there's not much to suggest it was ever really going to hold her back. There's some superfluous footage of press conferences and awards that feels a bit like filler given all the natural beauty in most of the footage, but overall, teens with a keen interest in the sport will be rewarded with a solid meditation on the stakes. Plus, there are some great touches about her attitude toward being a woman in a male-dominated sport and finding her own individual way to trust her instincts and incorporate her femininity into her work that may inspire girl surfers in particular.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Stephanie in the Water's portrayal of ambition. How ambitious is Gilmore? What's her philosophy on surfing? How does her attitude compare with that of other athletes you've watched or read about?

  • What is Gilmore's attitude about her attack? How do you think it factored into her return to the sport?

  • What does Gilmore's gender have to do with her success in surfing? How was it a liability or an advantage, according to the documentary?

Movie details

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