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Wet Bum – Movie Review

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Wet Bum – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

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There’s something captivating about movies that are simply quiet and just rely on basic human interaction. Wet Bum is content to let the characters talk with one another and in the process, they present genuine emotions. Director/writer Lindsay Mackay has an understanding of young people and the issues they face when growing up and she applies this to the elderly characters as well. When the harsher scenes occur, the movie has earned the right to go that route. While a couple of scenes are out-of-place, as a whole, it’s a nicely quiet film that hopefully, most of all, teenage girls give a watch.

At the centre of Wet Bum is lead character Sam, played in a strong performance by Julia Sarah Stone. She helps make Sam easily identifiable and her attempts to navigate her 14-year-old life are portrayed in a realistic and down-to-earth fashion. She is in every single scene and Stone naturally handles the vulnerability and obstacles she goes through. Whether it’s tackling the relationship with her mother, brother or swimming instructor, each one presents different and interesting challenges and a major part of her growing up. Interestingly, she feels the most comfort among the senior citizens at a local retirement home as they share the same confusions of life. Ed, an elderly man who frequently tries to hitch rides out of town, constantly keeps running into her and yet while he knows precisely what’s he looking for, Sam is uncertain. The script never portrays Ed as the wise old man with sage advice, but somebody with his own problems and he thankfully never becomes a stereotype.

The relationship that forms between Sam and her life guard coach Lukas gives off some inappropriate creepy vibes and Mackay keeps it mostly ambiguous and unpredictable. Will they become romantically involved? Does Lukas have lustful feelings towards her? Will the film address how much older he is? All of these questions are kept running through one’s mind and Mackay doesn’t just spill out all of the answers in one go. It also tackles the concept of the crush teenagers might go through as their bodies change. Meanwhile, there’s the strained friendship between Sam and a former friend, which at times, seems like unrealistic bullying that the movie never deeply explores. However, it eventually makes more sense as the film goes on. Wet Bum is a movie where patience is a virtue, but not in a way that becomes boring. You want these questions and problems to be addressed and they eventually will if you wait long enough. It’s nice when a film respects its audience and doesn’t reveal everything in one immediate go or with obvious foreshadowing.

At only a couple of points does Lindsay Mackay threaten to make the symbolism too obvious. The opening scene starts the film on a sour note with a moment meant to make the audience prepare for the rest of the story, but does not fit the tone and narrative at all. Thankfully, she abandons that approach for more simplistic and naturalistic storytelling devices. There is a certain ‘90s Canadian indie feel to , even down to the time period it’s set in. It’s uncertain whether Mackay is drawing from her own adolescence, Wet Bum but there is a bit of nostalgic recognition upon seeing old-fashioned vacuum cleaners and cassettes with not a single cell phone in sight. However, the movie doesn’t beat this over your head, even as it dawns on you that the film is likely set twenty years ago.

This is a movie that youngsters entering their teenage years would do well to watch and admire a film speaking directly to them. Julia Sarah Stone is definitely an actress who will soon make a splash, if this film is any indication, with a subtle complexity that brings to mind the likes of Saoirse Ronan. Even at about an hour and a half, it says a lot without becoming overbearing and handles its more adult themes with the proper restraint. Wet Bum is a quiet movie with real people in a real world and one that hopefully will not get lost under the big releases that find themselves getting the most attention at TIFF.

Wet Bum will be playing during TIFF on Sunday, September 7 at the Isabel Bader Theatre (3:45 pm) and on Wednesday, Setepmber 10 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (2:15 pm).

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Review By: Stefan Ellison