A teenaged girl comes of age in Wet Bum. Sam (Julia Sarah Stone) is a fourteen year old girl, who is somewhat insecure about herself, which is amplified by the bullying she receives by her peers in her lifeguarding course. Sam is also forced by her mother to work in a retirement home, cleaning the rooms. It is there where Sam develops connections with the mostly silent Judith (Diana Leblanc) and the cantankerous Ed (Kenneth Welsh).
Wet Bum is an absolutely charming coming-of-age story about a teenaged girl learning about how complex the world truly is. Sam is physically underdeveloped, which makes her quite insecure in her swimming class and the subject of bullying from the other girls, including her former best friend. This often results in Sam being too shy to change out of her swimsuit, often leaving it on under her clothes when she goes to work at the old folks home.
Even though her job at the retirement home is one that she generally dislikes, Sam ends up finding some more poignant connections at the home, particularly Judith, who is often seen silently staring out of the window. The there’s Ed, who is a grumpy old man repeatedly trying to hitch a ride out of town. Despite his cantankerous behaviour, Ed turns out to be one of the key characters in the film’s story, with him and Sam even getting to share a moment with each other.
While much of Sam’s personal development happens at the retirement home, her lifeguarding lessons is a recurring element of the film. One of Sam’s favourite activities is to dive underwater, which is almost like a personal escape from the harsh realities of her life. These sections of Wet Bum features some well done underwater cinematography, showing Sam’s moments of personal bliss. The swimming lessons also leads into a subplot involving Sam’s flirtations with her much older swimming instructor Lukas (Craig Arnold). Sam’s brother warns her that Lukas is a bit of a creep and there are moments when their interactions gets a little uncomfortable to watch. However, this experience is all about Sam’s growing confidence and maturity over the course of the film and leads to a great payoff towards the end.
The real soul of Wet Bum belongs to the young teenage star Julia Sarah Stone, who comes off as a highly relatable individual, who you are rooting for the entire film. Wet Bum is a very grounded coming-of-age story, which likely deals with some real issues that teenage girls face. The result is a film that is quite charming and enjoyable.★ ★ ★ ★ | LIKED IT
Wet Bum is now playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox