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Wade in the Water

“Wade in the Water” is a deeply touching, sad and funny, quirky drama that impossibly hits all the right notes and features poignant performances.

Recently screening at Dances With Films, the independent film festival in Los Angeles, Wade in the Water tells the story of a man (who is never named) who lives an isolated life surrounded by people he doesn’t care to get to know.

The closest friend he has is the guy who makes his burgers at the local fast food joint whose name he does not know. When a package not meant for him ends up in his mailbox, the man’s life is set off into a new direction — one that puts him on a collision course with a horrifying secret, as well as his own past.

Wade in the Water may not be a horror film, but it delves into some pretty dark territory.

It addresses issues like perpetual unhappiness/borderline depression, murder, revenge and child pornography.

The impressive thing about the film is how it handles all of these themes simultaneously and with varying tones. The film straddles disconnectedness, isolation, the mundane events of everyday life, and sexual abuse with impressive range from serious and dark to funny and quirky. And yet it all works in a wonderfully heartfelt and touching way.

Tom E. Nicholson as the man does a lot to gel this film together.

His portrayal is impressively nuanced at times, and suitably rough around the edges at others. He slogs his way through the frustrating, mundane happenings that build up throughout the day and deals with the repetitive nature of his at-home telemarketing-style job.

The man doesn’t help himself by carrying an attitude with him everywhere he goes, a perpetual chip on his shoulder that calls attention to his dissatisfaction with life.

Past sexual abuse at the hands of his father is mentioned early on and may have been the catalyst for the trajectory of his unhappy existence. It certainly plays a role in the severe action he takes when he sees what’s in the package that was accidentally delivered to him — and what he does to the man it was intended for. I have to remain vague here for the sake of spoilers.

The film takes its time as the camera follows the man, or stays on him for several beats, as he contemplates what to do next or reflects on what he just did.

There’s a quiet beauty in all of this lingering and following.

It’s a study of a normal guy swept up in unfamiliar and life altering situations. These moments have a sweetly absurd aesthetic that resonates like a secret handshake. Every weird little thing the man does when alone, like practicing his reflexes or gun skills, is very funny and odd. Yet these actions feel like things everyone does when safe in the privacy of their own home.

The drastic action the man takes brings Tilly (Danika Golombek) into his life. And so begins the most beautifully unconventional story of human connection and self realization I’ve ever seen.

It’s a movie that shouldn’t work.

If you described to someone the events that take place and how the man and Tilly meet, it would sound ridiculous. But it does work, and it works in a deeply moving and often very funny way.

Nicholson and Golombek are so painfully good here that it’s heartbreaking just to watch them struggle to bond, struggle to cope, and struggle with the fact that they are completely lost. And yet, the man and Tilly create something unique between them, a very human connection that only the two of them at that moment in their lives could share.

Wade in the Water is a compilation of small moments of connection in intimate places like a diner, a living room, or in a car.

These interiors function as the walls these people have built around their lives and the isolation they’ve created. It comes as no surprise then that while out in the open on a beach is where the two share their sweetest moment, as well as an unraveling.

This is a deeply moving film, a funny film, a sad film, a quirky film full of regret and hope. ‘Wade in the Water’ gets everything right and is absolutely wonderful. I just loved it.

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