Star Debby Ryan might know a thing or two about the pressures of a youth lived in front of the camera. Having been featured in TV and film since the age of 13, Ryan has become best known for her work in the Disney Channel’s The Suite Life on Deck, and her lead role in Jessie. Which makes her perfect casting for Australian filmmaker Rhiannon Bannenberg’s second feature RIP TIDE, a charming morality tale for a family market.
As the daughter of the head of a major modelling agency, teenage model Cora (Ryan) has always lived under her mother’s (Danielle Carter) shadow. When the video of Cora’s emotional breakdown on set goes viral, she takes some time out in Australia with her estranged aunt Margot (Genevieve Hegney), a former pro-surfer. With her aunt’s surfing business on the rocks, Cora’s presence provides a mutual learning experience for everyone.
RIP TIDE is a film squarely aimed at a young teenage girl audience. From the slick teen-dream opening of a stylish New York fashion shoot, through to its quaint version of Australian seaside life that appeals to international perceptions (“No chickens in the kitchen!”), Cora’s fish-literally-out-of-water scenario is an easy metaphor for the soul-searching all young people do as they come of age.
Ryan’s Australian feature debut brings her carefully constructed Disney Channel persona to the antipodes, giving her character a great contrast with the local talent. Hegney’s arc is the most satisfying, brushing against the trauma of losing her husband Caleb (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor in flashback), even if it is dealt with superficially. Tom (Andrew Creer) is hunky but perfunctory as the obligatory love interest. It’s the “quirky” sidekick characters that bring the most on-screen joy: Valerie Bader is wonderful as the wise Bee, while Naomi Sequeira steals every scene she is in as skater girl Chicka.
Impressively shot in just 18 days in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, RIP TIDE reportedly only had a six month turnaround period from the day the money dropped to the premiere at the Sydney Film Festival. Tania Lambert’s cinematography captures beautiful coastline and surfing sequences, but also has a modern pop influence to the fashion sequences.
“You need to get out there and make something, and you need to finish it,” was Bannenberg’s advice to young women filmmakers at the World Premiere in Sydney. With a largely female cast and crew, including writer Georgia Harrison, RIP TIDE puts that passion into practice. It may have a lighthearted narrative, but it’s also got a lot of character and a positive message for young women.
RIP TIDE debuted at the Sydney Film Festival 2017. It releases in Australia later this year from Umbrella Entertainment.