Movie Review: "Wade in the Water" (2019)
Goddammit, I love indie cinema. I really do. There’s a freedom that comes with being freed from the “Hollywood system”. You can explore themes that no studio exec in his right mind would touch. All you need is the budget and the backing, after all. Dark as Hell on a moonlit night? Cool. Bring the coin. Let’s see what you’ve got.
It’s not often that I’ll go with the “official” IMDB synopsis for a film, but in this case I’m going to make an exception. You ready? Good. Here goes:
Sure, our man has a name, but he never gives it. He works from home. His neighbors are all idiots. He doesn't really "do" friends. But all that changes when a misdelivered package arrives in his post office box bearing a horrifying secret -- one that will set him on a collision course with a predator, the man's disillusioned daughter, and his own dark past.
I’m going to let you in on a secret of my own: I know a thing or two about secrets and dark history. It’s my stock in trade, you might say. I’m a healer of sorts. That’s the price you pay for being an empath. It’s a heavy burden, sure- but it’s the price you pay for being the guy that people go to. I call it a fair trade, all in all. I’ve used it to make it a name for myself. No shame in my game.
Wade in the Water tells the the story of Our Man (Tom E. Nicholson), a man who lives on the fringe. He’s a fat, excluded loser. He doesn’t have much to live for. In many ways, he’s the epitome of the American Dream. He’s living a life of total freedom, sure- he answers to no one. Sure, he’s a “loser” (whatever that term means to to you). His idyllic existence is interrupted by a package that’s sent to the wrong address, though. It’s a DVD full of kiddie porn. As a victim of abuse, Our Man is acutely attuned to the horrors of those who suffer at the hands of the disturbed. Our Man’s journey takes him on a walk through all sides of the issue. Can he continue to be the same person on the other side? Or (as Bono said) “Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?”)
Movies like this get to me. There’s no other way to put it. I come from a very fucked upbringing, so when you dip your toe into the waters of the damaged, you’re speaking my language. I refuse to apologize for that. There’s a legion of us who had to endure the impulses of the impure (or help to repair those who did). It is, as they say, WHAT IT IS.
Wade in the Water is a perfect title. The tides are a force of nature that we can’t hope to control. The impure desires of man are the same. We are living in a time when that fact is front and center across the news. Much like Taxi Driver did in 1976, Wade in the Water shows us what the world is for a slice of the population that will probably never be heard from…and that’s a goddamn shame. As we awaken, there are (inevitably) groups of people whose stories will never be told, let alone rectified.
Wade in the Water is a fable, in a way. As the daughter of the pedophilia accused preacher (Samuel Whitehill), the character of Tilly Anderton (Danika Golombek) is perfectly cast. She is the epitome of the daughter who simply didn’t know her father was a monster. Is it Our Man’s place to meter out justice? Isn’t that the question of the age? Do you have the right to judge?
Our Man is the prototypical “every man”, that sleazy looking cat that you misjudge. Tilly fits the bill of the damaged girl who’s become today’s woman. The cinematography is gritty and realistic; there’s nothing that feels hokey in any way. Bravo!
Perhaps that’s why Taxi Driver always worked so effectively, for me, in both the aesthetic and the moral ground. It’s a movie that asks a very simple question, and Wade in the Water is cut from the same cloth. Do you have the right? Wade in the Water is a movie that understands the universal nature of its source material and pushes boldly forward anyways. It’s not often that the medium of film gives us something that makes us actively uncomfortable. It’s kind of refreshing in a twisted way.
Do you have the right to be the hammer of judgment? Ask yourself…..