Wet Bum, dry humour

by Norman Wilner | Last Updated 1 year ago

Director Lindsay MacKay

Emerging director makes a splash with her feature debut, a clever semi-autobiographical coming-of-age pic

In addition to being one of the more fun titles to say aloud at this year's Toronto Film Festival, Lindsay Mac­Kay's Wet Bum is a really lovely little observational drama.

It's the story of awkward 14-year-old Sam (Julia Sarah Stone), who goes through a very bumpy coming-of-age while working as a cleaner at the retirement home owned by her mo­ther.

It's also MacKay's story, as she explains over coffee a couple of weeks before her movie makes its world premiere at TIFF.

"I grew up in St. Mary's, Ontario, and my parents used to run the nursing home facility in that town," she says. "When I was around Sam's age, my mother was like, ‘Well, you need some responsibility,' so she made me be a cleaning woman in the retirement home - which was a lovely choice on her end. But it was the kind of thing that really made me grow up quickly."

Asked to explain how, MacKay talks about Sam's tentative friendship with the widowed Ed (Kenneth Welsh), an angry resident at the home, and how it reflects her own ex­perience of developing perspective.

Terrific newcomer Julia Sarah Stone keeps her head above water in Wet Bum.

"I remember, when I was really young, thinking, ‘Okay, at 25 I'm gonna be an adult; everything's going to be totally worked out.' But the older you get, the more you realize nothing ever really makes sense - you're always kind of figuring out who you are. And you make mistakes, as a kid and as an adult. What was really in­ter­esting about working at a retirement home, and what I'm trying to portray in this movie, was [realizing] that we're still kind of figuring that out.

"The Ed character, he's obviously iso­lating himself because of his wife's death, but I also think there's a part of him that needed to grow, and needed to learn, and Sam is helping him do that."

Given the project's autobio-graphi­cal nature, was it difficult to direct Stone as a character so close to her own younger self?

"It was really interesting with Julia," says MacKay. "I think naturally there's just something you can see, that you recognize, in somebody you connect with. So it was a lot of just letting her be her, because she's so intuitive. Her performance is incredible. Her eyes are amazing. I kind of would shape her, but I barely touched her, to be honest. She kind of pulled it all off on her own."

Interview Clips

Lindsay MacKay on making an observational movie about an observational character:


MacKay on how her watchfulness informs Sam:


MacKay on watching her movies play to an audience, and being a little freaked out when they play well:


MacKay on shooting in a real retirement home:


MacKay on getting Brendan Canning to score her film:


normw@nowtoronto.com | @normwilner

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