Home Sweet Hell
Mica (Douglas Smith), a teenager, suffers from a physical ailment called trimethylaminuria which makes him smell like fish. He spends as much time as possible in swimming pools and wearing an air freshener around his next to try to hide the bad odor. His mother, Sophie (Ariadna Gil), gives visitors a tour of their house because a famous pop star, Guillermo Garibai, used to live there. Meanwhile, Mica sees a therapist, Catherine (Carrie-Anne Moss), and flirts with Laura (Zoë Kravitz), a friend from childhood who may be more than just a friend.
Treading Water is one of those films that has a compelling concept that shows promise, but the story itself as well as its execution fails to pack enough of an emotional wallop. Writer/director Analeine Cal y Mayor and co-writer Javier Gullón blend comedy, drama, romance, whimsy, coming-of-age, magical realism and tragedy all in one package. The fact that the combination of those elements didn't turn everything into a totally incoherent, anarchic mess is quite relieving. However, Treading Water never truly finds its footing as it jumps from one kind of tone to another. When an important character dies, the screenplay sugar-coats it and glosses over it in a way that diminishes its poignancy. It seems as though the co-writers just rush from Plot Point A to Plot Point B without bringing out the humanism that can be found beneath the story's surface. Like most films, Treading Water shows its greatest weakness in the third act where an unexpected twist occurs, but in a way that feels tacked-on and lazy rather than clever and organic.
On a positive note, each of the actors make the best of what they have to work with, especially the charismatic lead, Douglas Smith, and Zoë Kravitz who plays his love interest. The story remains coherent, and the pace moves along fast enough without dragging. If only its screenplay were less shallow, Treading Water would have been much more than the sum of its parts. It would make for an interesting double feature with a much darker, imaginative and moving coming-of-age film, Léolo.