February 12th, 2021
MOVIE: LITTLE FISH
STARRING: OLIVIA COOKE, JACK O’CONNELL, SOKO, RAUL CASTILLO
DIRECTED BY: CHAD HARTIGAN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
A recent trend has been movies investigating the mind and the deterioration of our memory. Anthony Hopkins delivered some of his best work in Florian Zellar’s The Father, displaying the process of dementia in a harrowing, and haunting depiction of the syndrome. Supernova portrayed memory loss in a more subtle way, but still painful in how it affects the people we love. Julianne Moore won her Oscar with her chilling performance in Still Alice and how the process can destroy an entire family. It’s safe to say that it’s a subject matter that has been on my mind, because I have time to think about it, because people around us are dying, and because the time we have is precious. Chad Hartigan’s Little Fish is slightly different, where the world has been hit with a neurological virus, nobody knows when it will hit, and it can happen to anyone. When it does happen you instantly start to lose your memory. Who you are, who you’re married to, where you live, and where you were going. It’s terrifying and this story is told through the loving relationship of Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell), how the two cope with the virus happening around them, and fighting to keep their memory intact before it all disappears.
If there is one complaint about Little Fish it’s that it is a depressing film. But the truth is that I liked how depressing this was. I found comfort in the misery, like a Death Cab For Cutie song, putting me in the right mood about love, loss, and heartbreak. We’re introduced to Emma and Jude when they are first meeting. They are at a party and Emma is dating someone else, but after a brief introduction while standing in line for the bathroom, the two chat, have a spark, and kiss. Then things flash forward to now, with Emma seeing more lost dogs arrive at the vet than usual and the guy who drops off the dogs all of a sudden can’t remember her name. Jack’s friend Ben (Raul Castillo) is in a band and he helps with recording and all of sudden Ben can’t even remember how to play. From one scene to the next, Emma and Jude begin to rekindle their love more than ever, remembering where they first kissed, where Jude proposed, and cherishing the moments because as the narrative goes along, Jude’s memory is starting to fade.
One of the fascinating aspects of Little Fish is painfully current. The screenplay is written by Mattson Tomlin, based on a short story by Aja Gabel, but the impact of it feels almost suspect. There’s a line that Emma’s character says, “How can someone grieve when everyone is going through the same thing?” It’s an incredibly poignant phrase. It’s exactly why this pandemic has been awful for so many of us. It’s not easy when we’re all struggling, or grieving, or losing a bit of sanity. That’s what’s happening in Little Fish. Emma can’t turn to her mother in this scenario because her mother is starting to forget things. Jude can’t lean on his friends because they are getting tattoos of their wife’s name just so they remember. To lose your memory is to lose everything.
Typically a movie of this nature can begin to repeat itself in the narrative, but Little Fish does a strong balance of progressing the state of the disease. Soon Emma hears that drug trials are happening, which causes more chaos around the world, news reports state that some people are conducting dangerous medical procedures on themselves, and the third act of Little Fish turns into a racing clock. Emma signs Jude up for the drug trials. Jude is resistant at first and his fears are incredibly valid. Then we see hints that maybe everyone is beginning to forget who they are. The couple posts photos with post-its on the wall. It’s up until the very last shot of Little Fish where I was still hoping that Jude’s memory would be intact. This film creates genuine empathy for these characters.
Long after I finished watching Little Fish, I began to contemplate the strange nature of the Adam Sandler film 50 First Dates, and how incredibly odd it is that a movie succeeded at comedy with the affliction of memory loss. Little Fish put a much darker spin on that concept, waking up every day lost, thinking it’s the same date, or not remembering your significant other. But what Little Fish is able to create is an emotional romance, something powerful, with Cooke and O’Connell having a chemistry that’s tangible, and a love that has you rooting for them the entire way. Little Fish is a sad romance filled with so much amazing emotion it’s impossible to forget it.
LITTLE FISH IS AVAILABLE IN SELECT THEATERS, DIGITAL & CABLE VOD TODAY
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady