Adapted from the novel by Kate Marchant, Float (now in theatres and digital), starring Andrea Bang and Robbie Amell, finds its romance in the intimacy and vulnerability of searching for a sense of belonging, and adult swim lessons.
In Float, aspiring doctor Waverly (Bang) was set to spend the summer with her parents in China, but they changed that plan. Her parents secured their daughter a position on a doctor's research team in Toronto, instructing her to go there instead of travelling to see them.
Waverly ends up flying to British Columbia, where her estranged aunt Rachel (Michelle Krusiec) lives, but doesn't tell her parents.
Meeting everyone in Rachel's community, Waverly starts spending time with Blake (Amell), a lifeguard who offers to teach Waverly how to swim, after revealing she doesn't know how.
As the summer continues, Waverly and Blake get closer, but she ultimately has to face the reality of her decision. Both figuring out what she wants her life to look like, and navigating what happens after making the decision to go against her parents' wishes.
Struggling with feeling like you don't belong
Float is directed by Canadian Sherren Lee, and there are a lot of elements in the film that connect to her own life. Lee took adult swim lessons, she fell in love while travelling, but it was the element of the story about a feeling like she didn't belong that really spoke to the director.
"As an immigrant, I've had a lot of struggles with that, whether in my community or with friend groups, and also in my own family," Lee told Yahoo Canada. "That's something that I saw in the book that really, we kept strong in the film."
The movie isn't an exact adaptation of the novel. Among some of the changes from Marchant's book is that Waverly is older in the film, in her 20s.
"We thought it was a really cool opportunity to age with Kate's audience, but also, I think coming from a personal place of, when I was in my 20s that's when I had that experience," Lee explained. "I think your 20s are a time of really figuring out the rest of your life and who you want to be, and it's a very important time."
"You're an adult, you're about to sort of start being this independent person and building your life. So it's a very interesting time of your life to figure all that out. So we thought it was a good time for our characters to do that as well."
'Tension you have with your parents is so universal'
There's a beauty in the intimacy in the story, uniquely expressed through the vulnerability Waverly feels with Blake teaching her how to swim, including a scene set in the ocean, in the background of this attractive B.C. landscape.
"When you're learning to swim, it feels like such a basic thing ... you should already know how to do," Lee shared. "So there's a little bit of shame to overcome there"
"Then especially learning from someone you have a crush on is extra vulnerable. So I wanted it to feel that way, to feel kind of intense and high stakes, but also sweet. And let Blake kind of step up to the plate and be there for her in those moments."
The film's star, Bang, beautifully displays the nerves and uncertainty around her decision to lie to her parents, to not do as she's expected, in a way that feels particularly honest to watch.
Ultimately, Lee has discovered that's the part of the story that audiences have really connected to.
"I think tension you have with your parents is so universal," Lee said. "I know that Asian parents have a reputation, but it's been really cool to hear from people of all communities I think specifically, immigrant communities kind of share that connection with Waverly."
"There's been lots of moments, especially when you're travelling, when you sort of have to make a big decision. ... I think for Waverly, defying her parents for the first time and being a little bit of a quiet character as well, I think is something that we haven't seen a lot as a romantic lead. Someone who is maybe not as outspoken, outgoing, someone who's a little more shy or withdrawn. Seeing that progress in her, really breaking out of her shell, was really cool to work with."