Directed by Chad Hartigan
Screenplay by Mattson Tomlin
After missing Olivia Cooke’s film, Thoroughbreds, at the Philadelphia Film Festival three years ago (and kicking myself for it ever since), there was no way I was going to miss her new film, Little Fish (one of two she’s in this year – Sound of Metal drops on Amazon Prime in December). Set in the near future, Emma (Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) are a happily married couple who live with their dog, Blue. Jude is a photographer. Emma’s a vet. Life would be good, except the world they’re living in’s a little scary. More and more people are showing signs of NIA, or neuroinflammatory affliction. The disorder doesn’t exist outside the film, but it’s similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s, in that it effects memory. Some people are forgetting all at once. Others are forgetting slowly but, when it comes to age, NIA doesn’t discriminate and there is no cure.
They watched it happen to their friend, Ben (Rául Castillo), and now Jude is starting to forget things, too. The question with Little Fish is whether you’re willing to suffer the drudgery for a sliver of hope at the end. Most of the film is torturous to get through and it’s not because it’s badly done but there’s no relief. Sure, you get to see some of their happy memories but it’s all within the context of Jude trying to remember or Emma providing voiceover narration. It’s not like watching (500) Days of Summer, where you’re able to forget sometimes that the couple will break-up (and it’s not even like a film about actual Alzheimer’s, where that’s someone’s real experience). I also found it strange that the film found it necessary to have O’Connell adopt an American accent, yet Cooke gets to use her British accent for a change. Some of the dialogue was hard to hear and the film could’ve used subtitles.
The 29th Philadelphia Film Fesitval runs from October 23rd to November 2nd. Click here for the full program.