Admittedly, I first leaped at the opportunity to review Wade in the Water for an obvious reason: It has my first name in the title! Fortunately, I enjoyed watching it beyond the novelty of that coincidence. In fact, it’s a fairly memorable film, and possibly worth owning. Why?
Mark Wilson’s Wade in the Water could easily draw comparisons to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) or possibly even David Slade’s Hard Candy (2005). However, this film carries its weight in a different, more subtle way. It manages to be dark without beating you over the head with it. The main character, simply called Our Man (Tom E. Nicholson: Kidding TV series), is relatable to some degree and interesting to watch. If there is a character arc, it’s actually rather slight. Perhaps the biggest, most dramatic transformation will be with the viewers themselves. It’s interesting that, although Our Man makes some drastic decisions, he remains recognizable as the same person throughout. There isn’t the sense of Jekyll and Hyde here, or good vs. evil, or light vs. dark. Also, what he does is rather understandable, because the man’s relatable.
So, who is Our Man? I don’t wish to give away everything, but he seems almost constantly agitated, bitter and jaded with life. For example, he gets angry at a postal worker (Jacob Boyd: Green Book 2018) for having to buy “Forever Stamps.” He also gets annoyed with his burger at a burger joint, tossing it at the chef (Matthew Daniger: Co-Workers 2011). Our Man has a dead end, work-at-home job as a billing specialist. He does see a therapist, though, and we learn he was abused by his father (a huge insight into his problems). When an envelope containing something creepy is wrongly delivered to his mailbox, it animates him to make a life-changing decision.
There’s another interesting thing about the character: He blurs the line between spontaneity and premeditation. He actually seems reluctant to do what he does, partially due to his low confidence. Yet, at the same time, this low confidence and resentment actually feeds into his decisions. As he plans things out, he seems to understand that anything can go wrong at any second. In any case, the apparent apathy of the neighborhood is what helps him in his scheme, as simple as it ultimately is.
Strengths of Wade in the Water
Our Man is tailor-made for our age of outrage. However, much like Taxi Driver‘s character of Travis Bickle, he’s also a warning to us. It’s like the Nietzsche quote: “He who fights with monsters should [see] that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” While Our Man may not be a total monster, it seems he’s long been at risk of becoming one given his short fuse over petty annoyances. In that sense, this movie definitely allows for moral ambiguity, which is what a lot of good art does.
The other main character, Tilly Anderton (Danika Golombek: 7 Witches 2017 – read our review here), feeds into this sense of uncertainty as she does not know how to handle someone like Our Man. Wade in the Water also reveals that, ultimately, things like music and old movies can help tame the savage beast (so to speak). Our Man also wants love and affection, but there’s never a sense that he’ll really get it. This is a hard lesson but definitely relevant to those who have been there. It should also be mentioned that the acting is top-notch, especially by Tom E. Nicholson. He brings an authenticity to the role, with nothing seeming forced or for effect. Wade in the Water also features Samuel Whitehill (The Cry 2019) as William Anderton, John Clark (Jagged Edge 1985) as Our Man’s father, Jeremiah Jahi (One Life To Live TV series) as Police Officer and Sheila Mears (My Lunatic Lucy 2018) as Therapist. Chris Retts’ (Last Will And Ted 2015) writing is solid overall.
Weaknesses of Wade in the Water
There aren’t many blemishes to Wade in the Water, honestly. It’s not a fast-paced movie, but it doesn’t drag, either, so that’s not a problem. Really, if I had to drum up a complaint, it would be about Tilly. Specifically, I don’t like how she mentions Our Man being white numerous times. His skin color has literally nothing to do with his actions or with the overall story line. Also, she is (by all appearances) white as well, so what’s the point of that? It’s not enough to ruin the movie or anything, but it’s arbitrary and sounds like something her character simply wouldn’t say, especially in light of the circumstances they’re dealing with. Definitely check this movie out if you get a chance. It delivers, even if in a subtle manner.
What are your thoughts on Wade in the Water” Let us know in the comments!