The confines of a swimming pool serve as the perfect metaphor for the awkwardness of adolescence in Wet Bum, the charming and moving debut film from Lindsay MacKay. Underneath the calming waters of the pool is where Sam (Julia Sarah Stone, who gives an outstanding performance) is most at peace. With each graceful stroke she confidently expresses her independence, rebuking the conventional front crawl style that her instructor wants her to adopt. Outside of the water is another story entirely. This is where the cold and ugly nature of puberty – the bullying from peers, insecurities about body image, navigating racing hormones, and dealing with parents – rears its head. Her only source of comfort is her bathing suit.
Considering her protagonist’s reluctance to remove her symbolic shield, Sam opts to put clothes over her wet attire; it is a testament that MacKay resisted the urge to turn Wet Bum into a quirky comedy. Instead she constructs an elegant and honest drama about the complexities that come with both youth and old age. Through Sam’s part-time job at a local retirement home, MacKay introduces characters like curmudgeon Ed (Kenneth Welsh) and the quiet Judith (Diana Leblanc) who put Sam’s insecurities into perspective.
Taking a methodical and poetic approach to the film’s construction, the underwater cinematography is endlessly gorgeous, Wet Bum’s greatest strength is how universally relatable it is. MacKay instantly transports the viewer back to that time when life seemed like an unending series of embarrassments. However, Wet Bum is a coming-of-age tale that not only embraces the awkwardness of life, but shows the inner strength that is ultimately drawn from those moments.
Sunday, February 15, 1:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox