Deep Sea (2023) – Movie Review and Summary (with Spoilers)

Nanhe (Su Xin)

Alongside being visually stunning, almost AAA video game quality at times, “Deep Sea” is an emotional experience, especially as it enters its third act.

Film Summary

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Life hasn’t been the same for Shenxiu since her mom left. Her dad remarried, had a new kid, and you can tell his wife, and him are more focused on her little brother than her. She is an afterthought, baggage from his previous relationship, and while neither abuse her, they do neglect her – even on her birthday. But Shenxiu hopes one day her mother will return or reach out, and while on a cruise ship, something happens where she finds herself in this strange world where, between this thing called a hijinx, and this eccentric ship captain named Nanhe, Shenxiu hopes to potentially be reunited with her mom.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.


At one time, Shenxiu was a happy kid, and her mom played an active role in her life. However, how her mom’s relationship shifted with her dad, after she was born, put such a strain on that relationship that Shenxiu blamed herself for her parents’ split. What doesn’t help is her father expects so much of her while pouring no consistent love or attention, which increasingly makes her withdrawn at school as she seems to internalize the idea that she only makes people’s lives harder.


The captain of the Deep Sea restaurant experience, Nanhe, is known for his eccentric dishes, which are more miss than hit, but he is building an empire and will stop at nothing to make his dreams come true!


Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Notable Performances or Moments

The Animation

Deep Sea Restaurant
“Deep Sea Restaurant,” Deep Sea, directed by Xiaopeng Tian, 2023, (Tribeca Film Festival)

“Deep Sea” is gorgeous. It’s so beautiful that sometimes you want to pause it to take note they animated pores, and you want to slow it down to see how hair moves. It’s the kind of beauty where you don’t just want to watch in amazement but see if this is Unreal Engine 5 or how exactly they made this. For while there are times this looks like an enhanced version of something Hayao Miyazaki made, he is a hand-drawn animator, and this competes and defeats, in some ways, Pixar’s best work.

The Credits

While the credits are completely in Chinese characters, it provides some sort of epilogue regarding Shenxiu’s story and, on top of that, a view into Nanhe’s book. This keeps you engaged once the story is over and is perhaps one of the best mid-credit sequences that aren’t trying to set up a sequel.


How It Depicts Trauma & Depression

There is an unfathomable lack of depictions of young girls as leads in coming-of-age films, or even films like “Deep Sea,” which allow them to experience and work through negative feelings, which makes Shenxiu’s story a bit shocking as time goes on.

Shenxiu (Wang Ting Wen)
“Shenxiu (Wang Ting Wen),” Deep Sea, directed by Xiaopeng Tian, 2023, (Tribeca Film Festival)

Yes, it is established early on that she misses her mother, her father isn’t attentive, and her step-mom is more focused on her biological child than her adopted daughter. However, as things move past Shenxiu’s abandonment issues and we move into the third act, the story starts to really dig into the wound and push the idea a lot of the fantasy we’ve seen has been Shenxiu suppressing what has been happening and that her being underwater could be a grand representative of her depression? Oh, that is when “Deep Sea” goes from a beautiful thing to look at to something which goes beyond dazzling the eyes and starting to affect your brain and potentially bring on tears.

On The Fence

It’s A Little Longer Than It Needs To Be

While there is no denying “Deep Sea” ends strong, in the middle, as Shenxiu is trying to get Nanhe to help her find her biological mom, or at least release a creature she believes could help, things get a little tenuous. Once you get used to the visuals, there is no choice but to start digging into the story and characters, and while Nanhe has an almost Joker-type appeal, and not just due to the clown paint and extended smile, admittedly, his appeal is limited.

Don’t get me wrong, his persona and the walruses and otters (?) he employs are interesting and cute, but being that “Deep Sea” doesn’t seem to be a movie made for kids, but at least teenagers, the cutesy stuff can get old, alongside Nanhe’s storyline regarding wanting a 5-Star restaurant. Though, what doesn’t help is his back story isn’t given until the credits when we’re read Nanhe’s book. Never mind, there isn’t much explanation as to how Nanhe’s world works where humans exist with anthropomorphic animals. In the end, you understand it is more of a dream than reality, but before that, you are forced to just go with what is going on and not question it.

General Information

Director(s) Xiaopeng Tian
Screenplay By Xiaopeng Tian
Based On N/A
Date Released (Film Festival – Tribeca Film Festival ) June 19, 2023
Genre(s) Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Animation, Non-English (Mandarin)
Film Length 1 Hour 52 Minutes
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Characters and Cast
Shenxiu Wang Ting Wen
Nanhe Su Xin

Movie Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Spirited Away

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What Caused The Content Rating For “Deep Sea?”

Blood, a comical depiction of humanoid walrus’ butt cracks, and peril.

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