Living in a big city takes a mental toll on most inhabitants as they strive to balance work, hobbies, and relationships in such a fast-paced environment. Finding an escape out in nature is what keeps many people going, and although they’re far from the mountains and the forests, these four New York professionals are close to the ocean — so they surf to escape from the bustle. This enchanting film The Ocean Doesn’t Care follows the lives of two women and two men who look to winter Atlantic waves to find some relief from the city oppression.
Director Mikey DeTemple opens the film with an artistic pan of the sea and a textual overlay of the definition of the word conatus, which means “the force within a being that endeavors to persevere in its own existence.” The background music fades into city sounds including ambulance sirens and gatherings of people as the screen transitions to New York street life, juxtaposing existence in the big city with existence out on the water.
The story begins with Christina Nizar, a designer, as she describes her experience waking up at 4 a.m. to meet her friends in New Jersey to go surfing. She explains that while it is beautiful, it is also 10 degrees outside and the winds are gusting up to 30 miles per hour, but says, “Physically you become desensitized, and being in the water gives you perspective about how small you are in some ways — it kind of wakes you up.”
The film continues on to the next subject, whose struggle many people will relate to. Dion Mattison is a doctoral candidate and lecturer, although his studies are not funded. He discusses calculated risk and what he is willing to sacrifice in order to live in an environment like New York City, explaining that the feeling he gets when he’s teaching is comparable to the feeling he gets when he is out surfing in the ocean.
The story proceeds with more explanation of the stifling nature of the city by neuro-oncologist Mariza Daras and artist Juan Jose Heredia, and how surfing brings them a sort of calm. Although the physical environment might be unpleasant, highlighted by the freezing water, putting on and taking off a wetsuit, the sensation of being out in the ocean overcomes all of this. The four characters are so different in their city lives, but they come together in the ocean, finding something important in those Atlantic winter waves.
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