Directed by David Wnendt
Helen is a nonconformist teenage girl who maintains a conflictual relationship with her parents. Hanging out most of her time with her friend Corinna, with whom she breaks one social taboo after another, she uses sex as a way to rebel and break the conventional bourgeois ethic. After an intimate shaving accident, Helen ends up in the hospital where it doesn’t take long before she makes waves. But there she finds Robin, a male nurse who will sweep her off her feet...
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★★★★ review by Kristhian Morales on Letterboxd
In a medium where sounds and visuals are the primary methods of communication, Wetlands is perhaps one of the few movies which could be described as tactile. It's a film you can feel in your skin and it uses that quality to give the viewer pleasure and horror in equal measure. That description makes it sound like one of Cronenberg's body horror films, but at its core Wetlands is just the very frank story of one teenage girl dealing with an anal fissure while coming to terms with the divorce of her parents.
At the center of the movie we have Helen, a young woman obsessed with her bodily fluids, waging a war against everything she's been taught by her parents. She expresses her frustrations by using her body as an experiment against hygiene, sitting in every dirty toilet she can find or probing every orifice in her body just for the sake of it. David Wnendt, the director, has some fun with the ridiculous nature of it all. He shoots kinetically, using the camera to simulate Helen's restlessness, and stages even the grossest moments with sleekness and a playful eye (Look out for scene combining pizza, Strauss' The Blue Danube, and ejaculation to hilarious effect). Wetlands's intent is to shock you, to make you laugh and look away in horror at the same time, and in that respect it succeeds where this year's Nymphomaniac often failed.
But Wnendt has much more in mind. The film's most impressive feature is how it sneaks in the substance of the story while lulling the viewer with its self-conscious style. Images that at first seems to serve no other purpose than to look cool, keep coming back again and again. Each time, they are slightly altered, closer to their true form. Eventually it becomes clear that those images are a representation of Helen's psyche. With each manifestation she's pulling a layer off, allowing us to get closer to the truth.
The movie is rambunctious and irreverent and frankly it's not for everyone, but the way in which it proposes the inseparable nature of body and soul, with the former often bearing the bruises of the latter, is quite affecting. What starts out as a gross out comedy digs deep into the ways in which the emotional violence that parents sometimes inflict on their children, often inadvertently, shapes the lives of the younger generations for years to come. What Wetlands proposes is that the only way to heal those scars is to deal with them directly. Helen's treatment of her own body is not ideal, but at least she comes to recognize the root of her own damage: that's preferable to emotional repression for the sake of presenting a clean exterior.
★★★★ review by Katie on Letterboxd
I have so much respect and love for women who are so curious and explorative with their sexualities. Make more movies like this please!!!
★★★½ review by Rod Sedgwick on Letterboxd
“As long as I can remember, I’ve always had haemorrhoids.”
A provocative coming of age tale that delves into to some beyond-vulgar territory, and this chick has one hell of a rebellious streak and is taking it out on her body. I guess my sense of humour has always been tuned in this direction, and I after being with the same woman for 15+ years there isn't much I haven't seen or experienced, but I enjoyed the hell out of the various experiments Carla Juri's Helen is performing in the name of 'fuck you mother!'. I only clenched my sphincter a couple of times during some cringe-worthy scenes, but I feel Trainspotting had taken vulgarity in cinema just as far back in the 90's, in fact the film does pay homage to other films including said film in at least two scenes, Goodfellas with the line quoted up top and opening title sequence that is totally Fight Club but with pubic hair and bacteria as a focus. Watching four men ejaculate onto a pizza (hard knobs in full view) to the accompaniment of Strauss' 'Blue Danube Waltz' (ala. the 2001: A Space Odyssey scene but instead of glorious white spacecraft...) will likely be a good test whether this film is for you, and if you can handle that, you will find a slightly messy but highly entertaining dramedy/romance that packs some emotional punch when it is called for, but tends to suffer from a bit of lag due to its heavy reliance on flashbacks. Carla Juri is a bold young star with a punk rock attitude and totally owns the film with her dedicated performance, and I can freely admit that she turned me on many a time (mmmm vegetables). Wetlands is not a perfect film and feels like its trying to be too many things, but it certainly has enough to recommend it to the bold cinephile with a strong stomach.
★★★★½ review by Derek Diercksmeier on Letterboxd
This film will be streaming on Netflix on Tuesday. It's most definitely not for everyone, but it is truly vibrant and exhilarating. I love it.
★★★★½ review by Trenten Barker on Letterboxd
"CUMSPOTTING" OR "MEMÉLIE" (stole ur swag, Nick)
Wetlands could have easily been a disaster - like it is for most people, gross-out humour is very hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes, it can be pulled off with genuine wit, but most of the time, it just comes off as someone trying to hard to pull a reaction from audiences. Wetlands takes grasp of the former, and somehow manages to find a perfect balance, giving us a gleefully vulgar, yet utterly charming film.
Instead of focusing solely on trying to get the audience to cringe, it brings along allure, insight, and most surprising of all, heart. While the films vibrant script shouldn't be ignored, most of this is thanks to Carla Juri's wonderful performance as our (un)refreshing lead misfit, Helen Memel. Ah, Helen, you're by far the weirdest character I've found myself crushing on this year.
From David Wnendt's stylish, frenetic direction to Enis Rotthoff's pulsating electronic score, Wetlands works on almost every level- as a neon drenched cumming-of-age tale, a whimsical rom-com, or simply just a giant "Fuck you!" to the typical Hollywood female character we're so used to seeing on the big screen.
It goes without saying that this movie isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but with something as unique and subversive as this, I urge everyone who normally spits to give swallowing a chance for once. You may just find something you adore here.
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