Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Melora Walters and executive produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Waterlily Jaguar comes from an undeniably singular vision, and it should be praised as such. However, despite Walters’s unique voice, the film largely lacks the structure to be particularly satisfying.
The movie follows an author setting out to write a work different from anything he has done before, sending him into a spiral of obsession to the point that he starts affecting the lives of those around him. And while there are plenty of films about writers losing their minds, the script’s unique structure and approach make it feel fresh regardless.
That said, there are moments throughout the movie that feel a bit too over-the-top and melodramatic. One of the big issues with the film is that the dialogue frequently switches between feeling realistic and discomforting, and while this was almost certainly done on purpose, it doesn’t have the intended effect.
Additionally, the movie isn’t really clear as to what it wants viewers to gain from its narrative. Walters clearly has a lot on her mind, but much like the way in which a human mind moves, the script frequently jumps from idea to idea. Again, even though this seems fully intentional, it will likely be off-putting to most viewers.
Likely the most interesting thing about the film is its character development. Although the protagonist himself has an arc that is a bit conventional at times, what Walters really excels at is building her supporting characters. The various relationships the protagonist has that are explored over the course of the movie are pretty fascinating.
James Le Gros’s lead performance is very strong, and he is essentially the glue holding this ship together. Even when the film is at its most unnatural, Le Gros brings a lot of emotion to the table in a way that is very compelling. In the supporting cast, Dominic Monaghan and Mira Sorvino are the strongest contributors, but this is largely Le Gros’s show.
On a technical level, the movie is pretty weird, but this again plays into Walters’s vision. A lot of the film feels very rough around the edges, but then there are other sequences that are more polished. It’s clear that in both the writing and the execution, Walters has built a very clear duality in the movie, even if it doesn’t entirely pay off.
Waterlily Jaguar is the type of film that demands to be seen more than once, even if it isn’t the most pleasant, to pick up what one has missed. Perhaps artificially so, this is a complex and thought-provoking movie.
Waterlily Jaguar is now available on VOD.