Little Fish REVIEW – Heart Reeling & Affecting

What will you do to hold onto your memories of the ones you love?

Little Fish
Little Fish

Little Fish achieves the impossible: it places us in a dystopian setting, yet doesn’t allow it to detract from the main romance plot. This is a rare feat to pull off, because operating in the sci-fi genre is bound to pull focus. With films like The Adjustment Bureau and Passengers, both have sci-fi elements, and while they want the romance to take precedence, viewers were more interested in the sci-fi content than the romance at the heart of things.

In Little Fish, we are told that a memory-erasing virus is sweeping the world (this hits close to home considering current events). There is no news as to how it spreads and whether there is a preference for who it infects, but there is no cure, just a slow descent into oblivion, where a world of strangers awaits.

Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) are newly married, where a chance encounter on a beach birthed a permanent and binding relationship. The film doesn’t move in a linear fashion, so we transverse their past and live their present all at the same time – in an Emma and Jude bubble, so to speak. It’s all lovely and beautiful, until Jude begins to forget things.

It starts small, like forgetting his position in an argument and flip-flopping the next day, but it is enough for Emma to be on her guard. As Emma tries her best to help Jude hold onto his memories, we are given a haunting reminder of what awaits through their friend Ben (Raúl Castillo). Ben lost every facet of himself, his passion for music, his love for partner Samantha (Soko) – all that remained was a shell of a man painted with tattoos he couldn’t conjure memories from.

Both Emma and Jude turn to artistic preoccupations to preserve their memories – she writes (and narrates the story to us), while Jude photographs. The pair work together to help Jude remember who he is and their life together, with polaroids littering the wall of their cosy home. The film does such a great job of holding beauty and poignancy together, which is a credit to the screenplay by Mattson Tomlin (and the short story by Aja Gabel that it is adapted from). As Emma tests Jude’s memory on pivotal moments in their relationship, we see his frustration and despair, that his valiant best to remember will always be hazy on the details.

If a relationship is a cumulation of memories a couple holds together, what happens when one person forgets? All these cast-backs to the past allow us to see what Emma and Jude will lose, because it isn’t just losing a person you love so deeply, it is also rendering your life meaningless – to be cast adrift with no sense of tomorrow or yesterday. So, we hold our breath the same way Emma does, waiting for the other shoe to drop, knowing there will come a day where her husband can look at her and not know her.

There are moments where the outside chaos intrudes on their bubble, and we are reminded that Emma and Jude are living in the midst of a pandemic, much like we are. Hartigan colours these moments with such anxiety – we feel the anguish of the masses, the despair of knowing their minds no longer belong to them.

As the madness of the world dances around them, Emma and Jude nonetheless have the safety net of each other to retreat back into, so it is agonising to realise that eventually, this net will have to break. And so it does, but not in the way we think. The way the film ends, so neatly wrapped onto itself – it is truly exquisite stuff. Little Fish is not a film I will soon forget, and I promise you won’t too.

Review screener provided.

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Little Fish
Chad Hartigan's Little Fish drips with equal doses of beauty and poignancy - an affecting dive into love and memory, and how it defines who we are.