Little Fish tells a large-scale story in a small-scale way. It concerns a virus that causes people to lose their memory. For some, it happens gradually; for others it's instantaneous. Rather than exploring the worldwide impact of that, the movie instead focuses on two characters who first fear contracting it, then try to figure out how to cope when one of them does. I'll be honest in saying that Little Fish made me feel incredibly sad in this midst of the current pandemic. The film is well-done, although not something you'd want to watch if you're looking for uplift.
Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O'Connell) are the central couple. Early scenes show how they met, got together, and eventually married. The two watch in horror as one of their good friends gets Neuroinflammatory Affliction, or NIA. Then Jude starts to show some early signs of it. Emma attempts to convince him to sign up for an experimental surgical procedure that could reverse the symptoms. Both start to fear what will happen as he slowly begins to forget her.
I think Little Fish has the effect that it does because Cooke and O'Connell are so good. Our hearts ache for their characters. The stars bring such emotional authenticity to the film that the plot's events almost feel as though they're happening to us. Several recent or upcoming films – including The Father and Supernova – have tackled the subject of dementia. Those pictures are about older people, though. Because this one is about people in their twenties, the sense of loss is even greater. Emma and Jack find true love and plan a lifetime together, only to have the threat of NIA tear it away from them.
Director Chad Haritgan (Morris from America) gives the film a very intimate feel that accentuates the sadness of the story. Working from a screenplay by Mattson Tomlin, he provides only glimpses of how the world at large deals with the NIA pandemic, keeping the focus mostly on this one couple. The result is that we sense the weight of memory loss on those dealing with it. Interweaving present day with flashbacks to important memories on the verge of being lost raises the stakes even more.
Little Fish's supporting characters are a bit on the flat side, and the movie's ending feels just a little too manufactured. Mostly, though, it works as a sorrowful tale of a young couple facing calamity and realizing what it means for them. The performances are excellent, but like I said, this is a very sad picture, so be aware of that in advance. If, for whatever reason, you feel like going to that place, it will take you there efficiently.
out of four
Little Fish is unrated, but contains adult language and some mild sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes.