Movie review: Wild "Wetlands" is wonderful if you can stomach it

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The poster for the American release of the German-language film “Wetlands” boasts the following Buzzfeed-y blurb (from, um, Buzzfeed): “The most WTF, NSFW movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.” If that seems like hype, I would say it actually understates it.

So I think “Wetlands” is pretty amazing. I think you should see it. No, actually, I dare you to see it. But first you definitely must read on to know what you’re getting into. I’ve gotten enough angry comments from my negative review of “Gone Girl.”

The movie’s own studio release describes the film as “an unapologetically vulgar coming-of-age tale about divorce, first love and anal fissures.”

The film centers on Helen Memel (Carla Juri) an 18-year-old German with a distinct disregard for body hygiene and a truly creative sense of sexual experimentation.

When a “lady-shaving” accident leaves her with an anal fissure (i.e. a cut butthole), Helen’s hospital stay leads to both a budding romance and an opportunity to try to reunite her divorced parents.

So, yeah, “Wetlands” is not for everyone. It’s part “Nymphomaniac,” part “Trainspotting.” It’s shocking — if bodily fluids make you squeamish, this movie is your nightmare — but it’s also sweeter than you might think, uniquely insightful and often just plain hilarious.

Director David Wnendt opens this adaptation of Charlotte Roche’s novel with a letter to the editor declaring, “This book shouldn’t be adapted as a film.” Clearly he has taken this as a dare.

“Wetlands” is so joyfully perverse, its shocks sometimes seem almost playful, which is refreshing as Helen works out her kinks by celebrating them. If her behavior seems unhealthy, her attitudes are not.

The movie could only be as good as the lead performance, and Juri dives into every aspect of the role. The onscreen vulgarities may mask one of the breakout performances of the year, but I hope the emotional stuff isn’t forgotten. It’s the most nuanced scatological performance of the year.

So I’m going to leave you with one last warning: This movie is unabashedly gross and sexually graphic. Really. But it’s also one of the more daring filmgoing experiences I’ve had this year, if you dare to check it out for yourself.


Opens Friday at the Gateway

3 1/2 stars out of 4