June 13, 2019 Wade in the Water (Movie Review)
In the current state of our politically correct climate within the entertainment business, it is always nice to see indie filmmakers taking the bull by the horns by handling racy content. What is even more impressive is when it is handled delicately and confidently by giving us relatable characters and a delightfully offbeat comic drama. That is exactly what Director Mark Wilson and Screenwriter Chris Retts have delivered with Wade in the Water.
A semi-finalist for the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in 2018, the film premieres at the prestigious Dances with Films Film Festival on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. An interesting story, it centers around an overweight schlub known only as Our Man (Tom E. Nicholson: Rotor DR1 2015, Real Rob series) who just seems to hate everyone around him, but more so, hates himself. He works as an at home telemarketer so that he does not have to interact with human beings, his neighbors are all idiots and he doesn’t really “do” friends. Then everything changes when a mis-delivered package arrives in his post office box bearing a horrifying secret. It is a secret that will set him on a collision course with a predator, the predator’s disillusioned daughter and Our Man’s own dark past.
Winner of “Best Drama” at the 2019 Hollywood Reel Independent film festival, Wade in the Water is an intimate slow burn that will surely creep up on you when you least expect it. That said, you can be quite weary of films that have lead characters who are just so unlikeable and hateful to everyone around them. Characters that relentlessly curse for no reason, blame others for their problems, throw food in people’s faces, etc. That’s why it is a pleasant surprise with the nice turnaround this story ends up having for its lead character.
For a good 20 minutes or so you might be a little on the fence on where exactly it is all going. All you seem to register are an annoying amount of F bombs being thrown around and an interesting atmosphere being evoked. That seemed to be it, however, this is a film that truly tells a story, one that just keeps unfolding until the final frame. It does not give you all the answers right away, because if it did, that would be it and the rest would just be boring, which is why Wade in the Water will oddly hold your attention for its 90 minute runtime.
Now, there is an act of violence that happens around the halfway mark that is actually surprising that it happened at all. There is build up to it, but when it takes place on screen, you still might find yourself taken aback. It’s not that the scene itself is so shocking… it’s that it just feels slightly abrupt and you are not sure if it is fully earned by the time it took place.
This violent act connects us to the victim’s daughter Tilly (Danika Golombek: 7 Witches 2017, I Am The Night mini-series) who, after discovering her father’s dark history, forms an unusual connection with Our Man. This odd friendship is what truly gets us into the meat of the story. Although, if there was a main flaw in Water in the Water it is the fact that the friendship seems to kick in a little too late. Tilly herself does not really start interacting with Our Man until much later into the film, therefore, the development between the two does not feel justified enough.
Having said that, the element of Wade in the Water that truly holds it all together is not so much the script, even though the storytelling has some very strong moments, but the two lead performances from Tom E. Nicholson and Danika Golombeck. They bring a raw sense of true humanity to the piece that is quite refreshing. There is a sadness behind both of them that is revealed little by little and they both manage to say so much without saying anything at all. Mark Wilson manages to capture that sense of “sad comedy” very nicely.
Furthermore, Wade in the Water also has a crime tonal aspect to it in the vein of 2013’s indie breakout Blue Ruin, but this film is not about violence nor does it contain really any. Instead it is about the struggle to connect in a complicated world. It’s about isolation, loneliness, and redemption. All themes that ring true beautifully, Cryptic Rock gives Wade in the Water 3.5 out of 5 stars.