When you buy a boat, perhaps there should be a clause in the contract that reads, “Purchase of this boat does not constitute a requirement that you make a movie on it.” Casual moviegoers may not notice, but any aficionado of super-indie and festival movies knows that every couple of months, you’ll see the handiwork of someone who decided their big-ticket purchase could serve as a personal nautical soundstage. (Some of these films are better than others. Only one of them is All Is Lost.) More often than not, the narrative will center on the glorious simplicity of life on a massively expensive conveyance most people cannot afford.
Get Away If You Can does all this and more. Husband and wife directors Terrence Martin and Dominique Braun also star as “TJ” and “Domi,” a couple who needs therapy but settle for a long trip on their boat instead. He immediately gets stressed out and insists they stick to a plan, rejecting her sexual overtures and guzzling wine. She smokes joints and Facetimes her sister Mar (Martina Gusman) in Argentina. Domi swears at TJ in Spanish. He hasn’t managed to ever learn any.
When they approach land for the first time in a while, Domi wants to go ashore, tired of the cooped-up life. TJ insists it’s not part of the plan and demands they wait for a nicer beach that’s much further along on the journey. “They call these islands the Islands of Despair!” he yells at her. “This is the boat of despair for me!” she shouts back. She waits for him to fall asleep and goes anyway. He tries to follow her. She tells him to go away. One hopes the entire process made for great couples therapy, because watching it certainly doesn’t.
But what about Ed Harris’ giant face on the poster, you may ask? Harris appears in flashbacks as TJ’s toxic dad, who insists that Native Americans must be called Indians, makes fun of his son’s (admittedly awful) haircut, and wants to destroy his marriage because he thinks Domi’s too needy and men should be the bosses of everything. It’s a cartoon-character role that Harris’ mere presence adds gravitas to, but compared to all the seemingly improvised realistic arguments between the leads, it’s refreshing. The flashbacks add a nonlinear element that makes the relatively simple story a touch more interesting than it might otherwise be, slowly unpacking how Domi and TJ ended up on that boat—existentially, much less logistically.
Mostly, though, we’re stuck with the bickering couple on the island, which is only mildly more fun than being stuck in an ordinary room with one, because at least the scenery is nice. At one point, the two are surrounded by a herd of seals racing joyfully toward the ocean, and you’d have to be a real curmudgeon not to find some joy in that moment, because sea puppies!
Martin, who previously directed The Donner Party starring Crispin Glover, looks and acts like a hybrid of Matt Damon and Uwe Boll, and if that description makes you want to see him have fully naked sex with his wife, bless you. Braun, who has no other credits and is likely playing a version of herself, offers some insightful critiques of American culture and patriarchy in the conversations with Gusman, but mostly delivers a one-note performance in a narrative augmented with dramatic soundtrack needle-drops—including dubstep on at least two (probably unintentionally hilarious) occasions.
The title has multiple meanings, which is the movie’s cleverest flourish. “Get away” can be read as a warning to Domi to leave TJ’s family, or one to TJ to leave his father, or as an encouragement to take a vacation “getaway.” If as much thought were put into the script as the title, maybe the story would feel like more than just a filmed counseling session, with occasional moments of couples porn. Martin and Braun may aspire to the aesthetic heights of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, but if Cassavetes owned a boat, his filmography suggests he understood that a story must be conceived thoughtfully enough to sink or swim on its own—with or without a floating, self-contained set for protection.