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Treading Water
cast: Angela Redman, Nina Landey, and Annette Miller

director: Lauren Himmel

95 minutes (15) 2001
widescreen ratio 16:9
TLA DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies
Treading Water opens with longshorewoman Casey (Angela Redman) living a seemingly idyllic, if frustratingly skint, existence on her boat with social worker/ lover Alex (Nina Landey). All is not well in Casey's world, however. Secrets are one problem; her unbending mother is another. Casey's mother Maggie (Annette Miller) can't accept her daughter's sexuality, and refuses to allow her to bring Alex to the house, in spite of everyone else's approval and her husband Jamie's pleas. And Casey is just as unbending in her way, much to Alex's exasperation. (I'm not sure if it was director Lauren Himmel's intention, but I kept wanting to knock some sense into both Casey and her mother.) But the rapid approach of Christmas, with its enforced family gatherings and traditions, is about to bring matters to a head.

For one thing, though Maggie believes she hasn't met Alex yet, she has... though she was called 'Alexandra' at the time. Alex is the drug and alcohol counsellor of Maggie's youngest son Andrew. Not that Casey knows anything about her brother's drug problem, or the fact that her lover is his caseworker either. See what I mean about secrets? Then there's the mysterious Derrick, whose name keeps cropping up, and to whom something traumatic apparently happened five years ago. As the season of glad tidings and goodwill to all men arrives, so does Alex's lively friend Carmen from Mexico, but poor Carmen (Lysa Apostle) has no idea of the minefield she's walking into, and soon some long overdue confrontations are underway and revelations start to surface...

I enjoyed Treading Water, but I couldn't help wondering whether Alex's actions would leave her open to a charge of un-professionalism and the sack, in real life, if not a lawsuit. Frustratingly, the film also fails to resolve one of the major plot's strands - the feud between Casey and her mother. But hey, real life doesn't come neatly wrapped either. The New England setting makes a suitably serene and nicely scenic backdrop, and the members of Casey's family are detailed and well drawn. Alex's character is oddly sketchy, however - she seems devoid of any history or family of her own. And at times Casey acts more like a sulky, selfish teenager than an adult woman. That said, though, Angela Redman and Nina Landey make a believable, attractive couple, and I defy anyone to take their eyes off Annette Miller when she's in full regal flow as the stiff-necked mother. Robert Harte and Shawn Nee provide strong support as Casey's brothers, Shawn and Andrew, respectively. And Lysa Apostle's red-blooded Carmen brings a welcome breath of fresh air to Casey's claustrophobic world.

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