Based on Charlotte Roche’s memorably explicit and icky debut novel, Wetlands successfully carries over its source material’s irreverent and rude spirit. To say our lead character Helen is nonchalant about hygiene is an understatement. I wonder at what point the average viewer decides that she’s more than a little gross. I came to my conclusions about a minute into it – essentially, she’s bleurgh. Luckily, she’s spirited, daring and rather cute, so there’s a good chance you’ll stick with her, even if you end up wincing for a fair amount of the running time.
Raised to be a super-clean good girl by her troubled mother (who also teaches her daughter not to trust anyone – even parents – in painful fashion), Helen’s inevitably gone in the complete opposite direction – her blithely rubbing herself over a dirty toilet seat to gather up all the bacteria is just the first instance we see of her approach. This is a film you can really smell – the vibrant direction and camerawork lets us get right in there with the filth. Helen’s parents have divorced, and a painful moment of anal shaving (yep, anal shaving) leads to her bedridden in hospital – could this be the thing that brings her parents back together? There’s also a friendly male nurse who could be a potential new boyfriend, though I’m surprised he allowed Helen to change clothes in front of him without insisting on a female nurse being present. Maybe he’s just a dirty git. Story-wise this is no revelation – even the unsentimental ending regarding the parents subplot is pretty much what you’d expect, but the journey there is a lot of fun.
Given the predominantly female subject matter, director David Wnendt admirably avoids any leeriness or exploitation towards Carla Juri as the lead – nudity is casual and unaffected, and female bodily functions are frankly, sometimes hilariously, up front and in your face. There’s a lot of fun visual flourishes (the credit sequence gets right in there amongst all the muck and filth), great use of colour and plenty of icky laughs. You may want to avoid takeaway pizza for sometime after this though.