Arts Review, Movies
Lindsay Mackay, director & writer
Starring: Julia Sarah Stone (Sam), Kenneth Welsh (Ed), Craig Arnold (Lukas), Leah Pinsent (Mary Ellen), Diana Leblanc (Judith), Jamie Johnston (Nate), Natalie Ganzhorn (Melissa)
14-year-old Sam has fallen into the deep end of the pool: she’s entered adolescence but hasn’t physically developed as much as the other girls. Embarrassed, she refuses to take off her swimsuit after lifeguard lessons, leaving her with a wet bum, which only makes her old friend Melissa verbally humiliate her more. As if that wasn’t enough punishment, her mother insists that Sam must work after lifeguard practice at the family business, a retirement home.
Followers of Canadian cinema will recognise where Wet Bum seems to be going—into another exploration of a quiet loser who sees the world differently and is punished for doing so. Happily, writer/director Lindsay Mackay is made of more modern, sterner stuff. Though she’s thin, Sam’s swimming instructor Lukas begins to pursue her while at the retirement home, she gradually develops a relationship with Judith, a mute elderly woman with sorrowful eyes and Ed, a gruff oldster who keeps on trying to hitch a ride back to the house he used to share with his deceased wife.
Eventually, Sam starts to mouth off—taking on Melissa and her brother, who awkwardly tries to patronize her. Wet Bum comes alive as Sam begins to assert herself in the initially terrifying world of adults and competitive teenagers. Mackay’s film acquires a kind of poetry in Sam’s swimming scenes underwater. It’s as if she’s ready to bob to the surface and become the adult girl she longs to be.
A delightful surprise, Wet Bum heralds two fine young talents in Alison Mackay and lead actor Julia Sarah Stone.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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