The great thing about comedies is that they can turn almost anything into a laugh-out loud romp. People often suffer in dramas and the like but with comedies, the characters can experience many strange situations and through the power of the script and the performances, things can be transformed into something rather humorous. The latest independent comedy Treading Water (a.k.a. The Boy Who Smells Like Fish) is a quirky example of this stimulating formula. The film tells a tale that probably can’t be told in any other medium and the results are pretty out there. It’s not for all tastes, in fact, it’s quite random and in many instances, downright weird. If you have some time on your hands and want to see some likable performances mixed with a bizarre plot, then this film is right up your alley.
Treading Water is a colorful and often zany film that focuses on Mica (Douglas Smith), a young man who has suffered all his life from a rare disease. That disease is Trimethylaminuria, also known as “fish odor symptom” and it enables certain enzymes from being created resulting in an unfortunate fish smell. Since birth, Mica has been a victim of this awkward illness and it has caused bullying and serious self esteem issues. He spends much of his time either soaking in a tub or doing laps in a swimming pool, where he can momentarily escape from his woes. Mica’s parents (Ariadna Gil and Don McKellar) have tried to provide a happy existence for him and while it’s not the most orthodox environment to grow up in, it is adequate at best. Their home is actually the former residence of Guillermo Garibai (Gonzalo Vega), a Wayne Newton-like Hispanic singer. Mica’s parents conduct tours for Garibai’s fans and Mica is stuck right in the middle of the activity. Things seem to be going nowhere for Mica, that is until he crosses paths with a childhood friend (Zoe Kravitz) and predictable sparks begin to fly.
Few films manage to combine coming-of-age charm with off-the-wall insanity. Treading Water does just that and while it isn’t a perfect film, it’s far from mediocre. This is a movie that warrants repeat viewings and the acting is really top notch. Douglas Smith (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Big Love) is great as the film’s main character. The way he handles the fish odor, various pressures from life and the introduction of romance is done with absolute grace. Zoe Kravitz (Divergent, X-Men: First Class) is also adorably spunky and her scenes should have been much longer. Ariadna Gil and Don McKellar are both fantastic as Mica’s oddball parents and Carrie-Anne Moss adds a bit of star power as Mica’s lifelong therapist who is trying to help him sort out his issues. In addition, Gonzalo Vega supplies some of the film’s biggest laughs as a once great performer whose legendary status lives on in Mica’s house/museum.
Written and directed by Analeine Cal y Mayor, Treading Water is not a big-budget blockbuster by any means, however, it is a curious film that does offer some quality entertainment. It will most likely end up on Netflix Instant and will hopefully eventually gain a cult following. With its fun fable-esque structure and strong performances, it is a film that should not fall through the cracks. Douglas Smith and Zoe Kravitz are two young stars who should definitely be watched because they have very promising futures. Treading Water is only the beginning for these two.