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Austin Film Festival 2019: “Wade in the Water” Film Review

“Wade in the Water” played at the Hideout Theatre on Friday, October 25, as part of this year’s Austin Film Fest lineup. It had an encore screening on Monday, October 28, at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. You can watch the trailer below.

The drama was written by Chris Retts and directed by Mark Wilson. It stars Tom E. Nicholson as the “protagonist,” who happens to be a not very likable unnamed man. Danika Golombek co-stars as Tilly, a young woman whose life is directly impacted by the main character’s actions. The two make a sort of odd couple who, by all means, should want nothing to do with one another. But loneliness will do that to you.

Nicholson’s character is an asshole from the get-go. He’s rude to every member of the service industry he comes into contact with, from the man at the post office to the cashier at Chef Burger — and then we find out he also works in the service industry, calling people on behalf of a medical billing company. It just makes his choice to treat people badly that much more heinous.

He’s also going to therapy by court order; he was abused by his father as a boy, which is what drives some of his actions further along in the film. What “Wade in the Water” does best is philosophy and morals. There are actions that are clearly wrong, but are they less wrong in certain situations? If you hurt one person to save another, is that a good deed? It presents a lot of questions about what it means to be “a good person.”

Danika Golombek and Tom E. Nicholson in “Wade in the Water”

There is some really great dialogue in the film as well. From the comedic “What the fuck is a Forever Stamp?” to the painful “I am a queen, and you’re nothing,” it runs the gamut. There’s even a bit of truth sprinkled in when one of the main characters concedes “all I can control is what I do.” Nothing has ever been truer.

The first half of “Wade in the Water” is much stronger than its second half. Meeting the characters and watching what brings the man and Tilly together proves more interesting than the drawn-out aftermath. Yes, the moral quandaries mentioned above are emphasized in that second half, but it does feel like it goes on a little too long, and like the relationship between our two main characters is a little too forced. That’s not to say the cast didn’t deliver; they just weren’t given quite enough to make it work for the full 89 minutes.

If the trailer above intrigues you, or if you love dramas that examine humanity, emotion and consequences, this movie is right up your alley. If none of those things apply to you, you’re probably best passing on this one.

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