Jack O’ Connell as ‘Jude’ in Chad Hartigan’s LITTLE FISH. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

2020 was a rough year for pretty much everyone. So, when a new movie comes along that’s all about a global pandemic, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and sigh “here we go” as I pressed play. 107 minutes later I’m wiping tears from my eyes. Goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Yes, as if COVID wasn’t bad enough, Little Fish introduces us to a new virus that’s spreading through earth’s population like wildfire. It induces memory loss in anyone infected.  Sometimes sudden, sometimes it’s a slow fade into oblivion.

Olivia Cooke is Emma, a veterinarian living in a near-future Seattle who meets Jude (Jack O’Connell) a creative and free-spirited photographer. Through narration and non-linear storytelling, we get introduced to them as they meet, fall in love and build a life together. 

Emma’s mom is starting to slip away at the other end of the world and eventually the pandemic starts hitting closer to home when their good friend Ben (Raúl Castillo) can’t remember any of the songs that he’s written. As the entire world falls to pieces around them and tensions rise, the couple tries to navigate their own little piece of the drama.

There are of course the obvious elements that make Little Fish resonate a bit more, especially during a real-life ongoing pandemic. Whenever I see surgical masks on screen these days I go “hey, I know those” and I slip into a slight personal panic. But luckily there’s much more going on. The love story between Cooke and O’Connell is at the epicenter of all this and thankfully the film spends more time focusing on them than it does on the outside world. The chemistry between them is palpable and it doesn’t take long before you’re completely invested in them. When tragedy eventually strikes, and their relationship is heading towards inevitable doom you crumble along with them.

Based on a short story by Aja Gabel and adapted by Mattson Tomlin (who wrote the upcoming The Batman) Little Fish has a great structure and a dramatic identity of its own but it’s hard not to compare some of its more striking elements to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Another brilliant movie that plays with memories and doomed romance. Director Chad Hartigan may not use flashy visual trickery like Michel Gondry, but he directs with a firm hand and allows for plenty of small poetic moments that perfectly capture the emotions on screen.

Little Fish is a heartbreaker of a film about love and loss that manages to capture big ideas in a small and beautifully intimate way.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In Theaters and On Demand on February 5, 2021

Review – ‘Little Fish’

Reviewed online (screener provided by IFC Films), January 5, 2021. Rating: TBC. Running time: 101 min.

PRODUCTION: An IFC Films release of an Automatik Entertainment, Black Bear Pictures, Oddfellows Entertainment, Tango Entertainment production. Producers: Lia Buman (p.g.a.), Rian Cahill (p.g.a.), Chris Ferguson (p.g.a.), Tim Headington, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (p.g.a.), Mattson Tomlin. Executive producers: Fred Berger, Olivia Cooke, Michael Heimler, Teddy Schwarzman, Max Silva, Ben Stillman.

CREW: Director: Chad Hartigan. Screenplay: Mattson Tomlin (short story by Aja Gabel). Cinematography: Sean McElwee. Editing: Josh Crockett. Score: Keegan DeWitt.

CAST: Olivia Cooke, Jack O’Connell, Soko, Raúl Castillo, David Lennon.

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