What We’re Watching: ‘Wetlands’

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Eric Robinson.

“Wetlands”

★★★★✰

Sex comedies are always problematic.

Most indulge exclusively in sexist male fantasies. Yet with his latest film, German director David Wnendt defies this trend, presenting an unflinchingly honest depiction of sex from the perspective of a teenage girl.

Promotional poster for "Wetlands."
Promotional poster for “Wetlands.”

“Wetlands” follows the exploits of sex-obsessed Helen Memel (Carla Juri), who embarks on various sexual escapades while scheming to reunite her separated parents.

After a reckless shaving accident, Helen ends up in the hospital, where she reflects on her lifestyle choices and attempts to charm a young male nurse.

The film presents imagery that is, to put it mildly, revolting. Whether it’s four guys masturbating into a pizza or Helen swapping bloody tampons with a good friend, “Wetlands” is not for the squeamish.

Though the scenes in “Wetlands” are absurd, Wnendt’s presentation of grotesque bodily functions is at least true to life. Whereas other films would avoid even showing nudity, Wnendt does the audience the courtesy of revealing every dirty detail.

In one memorable shot during the opening minutes, the camera actually zooms in on a toilet seat teeming with microorganisms.

Wnendt approaches this imagery with both humor and a surprising amount of heart. When Helen and a friend use their own period blood as warpaint, what would normally register as just ridiculous and disgusting becomes hilarious and weirdly touching.

But the film’s writers, Wnendt and Claus Falkenberg, enter dark territory as well. Suicide and divorce serve as a backdrop to the film’s examination of modern teenage sex culture.

Juri gives an outstanding performance as the mischievous and snarky Helen, while also adding a shade of mournfulness to her character that works in the film’s darker moments.

For all its honesty, the movie falters with a generic rom-com-style ending. This moment of insincerity is not enough to topple the entire piece, but seems out of place compared to the rest of the film.

Ultimately, Wnendt’s effort is a welcome change for sex comedies. Profane, nauseating and somber at times, yet sweet, funny and touching, “Wetlands” succeeds because of its willingness to engage with the topic at hand – sex – in a way that’s both frank and entertaining.

Released: Sept. 5
Director: David Wnendt
Genre: Comedy
Cast: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Marlen Cruse

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