Little Fish

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Little Fish
dir Chad Hartigan
scr Mattson Tomlin
prd Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Rian Cahill, Tim Headington, Lia Buman
with Olivia Cooke, Jack O'Connell, Soko, Raul Castillo, Albert Nicholas, Carmen Moore, Kwesi Ameyaw, David Lennon, Joleigh Schultz, Toby Hargrave, Chris Shields, Emily Stott
release US 5.Feb.21
20/US 1h41

cooke oconnell castillo

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cooke and o'connell
Shot with a relaxed, sensual tone, this romantic film takes a light approach to its high-concept narrative. Director Chad Hartigan paints a swirl of visceral memories to build a strong sense of characters and situations before the lightly sci-fi plot clicks into gear. From here, the story increasingly grows both intense and sad. And the understated, internalised filmmaking gives each scene a remarkable intimacy, pulling us in further.
Late at night, veterinarian Emma (Cooke) can't stop thinking about her relationship with her photographer husband Jude (O'Connell). So she decides to write everything down, determined to remember their life together as a virus sweeps through the population, causing sudden and severe memory loss. Their first friend to catch it was musician Ben (Castillo), and they watched as he slowly began forgetting his songs and his girlfriend Sam (Soko) and then himself. But even amid the encroaching fear caused by confusion, the afflicted never lose their feelings for each other.
The title is a reminder of Emma and Jude's love for each other, and a reference to goldfish memory. Much of the film features fragments of the past, as Emma works to recall the details of her life with Jude, starting with the moment they first met, then leading into their growing interest in each other and evolving into marriage. Tomlin's script cleverly peppers scenes with little echoes, touching on the bigger themes and ideas. Thankfully, for such a potentially grim premise, the film's mood remains light, with moments that are sweet and warm.

Cooke gives a superbly introspective performance, underplaying Emma's emotions while making it very clear how she's feeling. Her chemistry with O'Connell has an earthy honesty to it, as O'Connell brings a grounded blend of humour and grit, tinged with deep emotions. Castillo and Soko have several strong scenes along the way, especially as they deal with the impact of this horrible disease. All four of these actors find complex ways to express the inner experiences of people faced with such mind-boggling situations.

Hartigan assembles everything beautifully, with expert camerawork and seamless editing rhythms that make everything sharply clear within the kaleidoscopic approach. Everything on-screen taps into the kinds of things we remember about our lives and our connections with each other, and it beautifully depicts how scary it would be to forget pieces of ourselves. So it's hugely moving to see Emma and Jude quiz each other on their history. And while it's somewhat over-egged, where the story goes carries a compelling punch.

cert 15 themes, language 28.Dec.20

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall