In a world where a pandemic has broken out (imagine that!), Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) must find a way to preserve each other’s memories as their minds begin to cloud and they begin to forget those they love. The wonderful Olivia Cooke, Little Fish, which tells the story of our protagonist, beautifully portrays this heartbreaking combination of drama and science fiction.
The way director Chad Hartigan portrays the relationship between Emma and Jude as the world crumbles beneath their feet is so impressive. The love they have for each other is incomparable. Emma loves Jude so much and Jude respects Emma so much that he believes in all her decisions. We often see flashbacks to important milestones in their relationship, such as the first meeting or the first kiss, with some memories deteriorating faster than others. Emma’s friend Samantha (Soco) plays an important role in the story. She loses her partner Ben (Raul Castillo) to a virus and is devastated.
Films depicting the riffs of Alzheimer’s disease are usually memorable for audiences: they go straight to the heart and are rarely performed in an uncomfortable manner. Several 2020 films have portrayed dementia in a new and interesting light, such as Supernova and Relic, and it seems to be a prevailing theme at the moment. Little Fish presents Alzheimer’s disease in one of the most fascinating ways I’ve ever seen. Ben is a musician, and as soon as he feels his memory is slipping away from him, he decides to record all the songs he has made. Even that part in the beginning is so sad, you can tell he is starting to realize he is losing the ability to remember the songs he wrote himself. What would you do if you lost your memory knowing this was happening?
One of the only downsides I noticed from the beginning was Jack O’Connell’s accent. I grew up with Skins, so O’Connell was always on my screen. His character Cook was one of my first crushes on the screen, so seeing him so handsome as Little Fish while having an American accent is very uninteresting. But, as they say, his accent is good in theory. If you didn’t know he was British, you certainly wouldn’t realize that the accent is wrong. (Of course, they had to have O’Connell play an American for the role, but since Cook always plays a Brit, wouldn’t it be easier to make them both British?) However, there will never be a worse accent than that of Lin Manuel Miranda, who claims to be British in Mary Poppins Returns, so O’Connell is in good form here.
Building a future, even if you know everything you’ve learned, is hard enough. When you lose the knowledge of the past, you can’t help but blame yourself or the people around you. In movies like Little Fish, when something traumatic happens and the characters don’t know how to deal with it, they tend to blame the people they love. When you find yourself in this situation where your memory fades so quickly and you can’t do anything about it, you feel like your only option is to talk to get rid of all your anger. Writer and producer Mattson Tomlin writes all these emotions flawlessly, so much so that you are convinced that we could be in this situation with them. Tomlin, who is also responsible for the screenplay of The Power of Project 2020, is a writer to keep an eye on, especially because of his involvement with the upcoming films Batman and Megaman.
Visually, Little Pisces is simply stunning. The transitions between shots are always convincing; the same goes for the way the film moves in the different shades of light. The camera never intervenes, but remains dynamic, showing the story as it unfolds. Director Sean McElwee does an excellent job with the shots of “Little Fish,” which are both visually and narratively appealing. Every detail is captured with elegance. The moment you take your eyes off the screen, you may miss something very important. It happens so quickly and without undue haste. Without a doubt, Little Fish is the highlight of the film year so far.
The symbolism of the fish, mentioned in the title and throughout the film, is very interesting. Emma’s tattoo is a small fish on her ankle; Jude buys a fish for Emma instead of a ring. Fish have a limited memory and, when kept as pets, are confined to a small space. The characters themselves reflect the same existence: withdrawn, remembering things but forgetting them just as quickly. Heartbroken but beautiful, Little Fish is a must at times like these.
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