Netflix Now: Wetlands

The perversity of Wetlands is now available on Netflix.

"Wanna play Dig-Dug?"
If the Marquis De Sade were a teenage German woman living in a perpetual state of self-discovery (or indulgence, depending on your point of view), he might well have penned something like Wetlands.  A transgressive gross-out meditation on bodily fluids, anal fissures and sexual experimentation, British author Charlotte Roche’s best-selling erotic autobiography serves as the basis for inarguably 2013’s most unrelenting cinematic endurance test yet presented to our gag reflexes. Loosely referring to vaginal wetness, Wetlands uses the framework of a coming-of-age teen sex comedy as the basis for a series of increasingly repulsive situations all experienced, indulged in, and wrought upon helpless innocent bystanders by the tale’s mischievous 18 year old protagonist, Helen. 

A child of divorce and troubled upbringing, Helen (attacked with gusto by newcomer Carla Juri) is an outsider, alone and unhappy.  Stricken with hemorrhoids compounded with an insatiable urge to finger pick away at them, Helen finds validation in her intense, almost neurotic desire to offend those around her by engaging in sexual situations either with others or inanimate objects most would shy away from even thinking about. The film is told largely through unreliable voiceover passages from the book. Laying in her hospital bed, the film takes the viewer on a journey deep into the fevered mind of Helen as she reflects on her past and present life and whether or not happiness and fulfillment are possible for her.

"Nooooo. Not Transformers 5!!!!"
While Helen is essentially an extension of the equally (if not more) provocative Charlotte Roche’s public sexual antics, including but not limited to propositioning Germany’s president in an effort to change of law, Wetlands would not have legs were it not for the fierce and fearless performance by Carla Juri.  Donning an androgynous short haircut, skateboarding about barefoot in between fingering herself where she can, Juri adorns Helen with an energetic, spunky attitude unafraid of sexual experience of any kind.  Second to Juri, of course, is the wisely unrated film’s circus sideshow of disgusting behavior committed by Helen.  

Take away the crass vulgarity and Wetlands would be just another coming-of-age picture.  With the extreme and at times, unspeakable obscenities infused in the text and film, Wetlands finds its razor sharp edge balancing a tightrope act between adolescent experience and parading scenarios that would make subscribers of EFukt wretch.  To try and describe some of the more grotesque situations in detail run the risk of committing a journalistic misdemeanor.  In short, there are things in Wetlands that are better left undiscussed here.

On a technical level, Wetlands is a heavily stylized piece of MTV filmmaking with some innovative use of CGI to depict an ocean of microscopic bacteria crawling upon a toilet seat or the camera following the protagonist’s finger travelling inside…you get the idea.  Cinematography and editing are top notch, augmented by a colorful electronic score that fuels the vibrant and carefree attitude of its central provocateur.  Despite how well done the project is as a whole, at the end of the day detractors’ assertions the source material isn’t much more than glorified pornography aren’t entirely unfounded.  Overall Wetlands is a well-made movie concerning a heroine I couldn’t wait to get away from.  Where most trolls thrive on teasing spectators to lose their lunch by picking their noses, Helen picks her butt and gleefully devours the dingleberries from her fingertips with relish and a fanged grin.  Coming of age or coming blood on your eyes?  You decide.

-Andrew Kotwicki