Review: Life, death and morality on the high sea

By Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News
Susanne Wolff finds tragedy at sea in "Styx."

In mythology, the river Styx separates the living from the dead and runs through hell. “Styx,” the movie, shows hell certainly flows through the modern world.

Rike (Susanne Wolff) is an emergency physician in Germany who decides to take her small yacht on an adventure, sailing off to a remote island to study nature there.

Her adventure is well underway when a storm hits and it looks like “Styx” might become one of those alone-on-a-boat in the middle of a heartless sea movies. Great rains and waves batter Rike and all may be lost.

But it turns out that near natural disaster is only prelude to a man-made one. After weathering the storm Rike happens upon a fishing boat within hailing distance.

It's obvious something's wrong on the boat – people are standing on deck and waving their hands, shouting. Then someone jumps off the boat and starts swimming toward Rike.

This turns out to be a young boy named Kingsley (Gedion Oduor Wekesa). Rike tosses him a buoy and by the time she's dragged him on board he's near death.

If you're going to jump off a boat in the middle of the ocean and swim toward someone, it turns out swimming toward a doctor is a good choice. Rike eventually revives the boy but then finds herself in a dilemma.

The people on the fishing boat are likely dying, but if she tries to help them chances are they will overwhelm and sink her yacht. And no one she can reach by radio is inclined to come to their aid.

“Styx” mixes the inherent danger of man versus nature with man's callous indifference to man, managing to be both eternal and contemporary in its concerns. The result is as dramatically satisfying as it is morally troubling.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.



Not rated

Running time: 94 minutes


Styx (Not rated)

A woman sailing a small yacht confronts tragedy and a moral dilemma on the high seas. (94 minutes) Tom Long/Special to The Detroit News GRADE: B