Wetlands

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Wetlands
"Barry Markowitz's cinematography makes the bleak marshland look hauntingly beautiful throughout, without ever relieving the sense of natural menace that hangs over the film."

In another of those eerie coincidences that recently saw Bushwick released just after the Charlottesville confrontation, Wetlands, a film that is in part about a hurricane, comes to US screens days after Irma hit Florida and two weeks after Harvey flooded parts of Texas. It's set in Atlantic City, which a rough glance at a map might suggest is not too vulnerable to hurricanes, but the clue's in the title. Much of this area is already half submerged. Languid pools of water sprawl beneath the grey sky. Houses are built on mud. Only the most stubborn weeds can take root.

Drifting back into this unforgiving landscape is Babs (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a detective recently reinstated in the force following a struggle with addiction. He's asked to be located there so he can reconnect with his ex-wife (Heather Graham) and try to rebuild his broken relationship with his daughter. The ex-wife, however, has a new girlfriend (Reyna de Courcy) with an addiction of her own and some dangerous associated habits. As the local police force tries to rally all hands to prepare for the coming storm, Babs is sucked back into the kind of circles he fought hard to get away from, and although he now has a different attitude to them, he remains vulnerable.

Copy picture

Big on atmosphere and not quite so sharp when it comes to plot, Wetlands is perhaps a bit too realistic in its depiction of petty crime, drug users and misogyny to make an impact onscreen. Its disorganised characters meander through life in disorganised and sometimes irrational ways. They're not very deep and they fall into familiar patterns that make them feel clich├ęd, though they're as present in life as in art. The performances, however, are better than one would expect in this situation. Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who has appeared in a good number of big name films (including the recent Suicide Squad) but has been unreasonably consigned to bit parts, is impressive in the leading role, especially opposite Christopher McDonald, who plays Babs' detective partner. There's able support from Jennifer Ehle as a colleague with little patience for injustice and an interest in our hero that goes beyond the merely professional.

Barry Markowitz's cinematography makes the bleak marshland look hauntingly beautiful throughout, without ever relieving the sense of natural menace that hangs over the film. The smallness of the human characters and their petty agendas is emphasised by the might of the forces about to be unleashed upon them. Like a penitent before the gates of Hell, Babs tries to cleanse himself of the stain of his past sin, but everything around him is sliding into corruption.

Reviewed on: 13 Sep 2017
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Wetlands packshot
A police detective tries to adjust to life back on the beat as a late season hurricane threatens to destroy the area where he's working.

Director: Emanuele Della Valle

Writer: Emanuele Della Valle

Starring: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Heather Graham, Christopher McDonald, Jennifer Ehle

Year: 2017

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: US

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