by George Wolf
Every once in awhile, a movie comes along about a young girl with anal fissures and a fascination with bodily fluids.
Not familiar with that genre? Get to know Wetlands.
Based on the “scandalous” semi-autobiographical novel by Charlotte Roche, it’s an often shocking, uncomfortable film, sporting a remarkable lead performance and a tender, funny soul aching to be discovered, even as it’s daring you to keep watching.
That soul is personified by 18 year-old Helen (Carla Juri), an eccentric German girl with eyebrow-raising attitudes about sex and hygiene, which she’s only too happy to share. During a hospital stay to treat her fissure, Helen narrates flashbacks in her life story, and we learn about her unusual philosophies, including the reason she wants her estranged parents to reunite.
Juri’s performance is an absolute marvel. Beyond the fearlessness, Juri finds amazing depth, never letting us forget that Helen is more than a simple wild child. She is pushing limits on all fronts, testing the validity of social taboos passed down by her mother, and finding comfort in the age-old teenage goal of surviving your parents. Remarkably assured for her years, Juri paints Helen as a completely authentic mix of rebellion, perversion and hurt.
Director David Wnendt gives the film a wonderful punk-rock vibe throughout, and keeps it grounded in coming of age honesty while also showing gross-out comedies how to be grosser. Despite one or two moments that feel a bit obvious, Wnendt’s vision for bringing the book to life is clear and true.
Anyone who’s seen Lars von Trier’s recent Nymphomanaic films will appreciate Wetlands even more. While LvT hijacked a woman’s extremely blunt sexuality for a narcissistic personal statement, Wnendt knows better than to stray from the path of Helen’s extremely personal journey.
If you haven’t guessed, Wetlands is definitely not a movie for everybody.
But, you know what? With this much humanity, hilarity and all-out balls, maybe it should be.