Little Fish


Little Fish Review

Films about drugs and recovery are usually of two schools. Either they're about the comic situations that arise from discovering yourself underneath a drug haze or they're hard-nosed films about a family bonding in the face of getting over the addiction. These films vary in worth to the viewer, but rarely do they slip between those two categories. So, Rowan Woods' Little Fish sorta blindsided me in its direct dealings with the struggle to keep clean, seasoned with crime spices. Some might group it in the latter group, but there's something else going on here.

Tracy (Cate Blanchett) works as an assistant manager in a small video-rental store in Sydney, Australia. She is recovering from a heroin addiction and trying to get money together to co-open a computer-gaming center with her boss. She lives with her mom and every once-in-awhile, looks in on her father figure, Lionel (Hugo Weaving). On his birthday, her brother (Martin Henderson) brings back Jonny (Dustin Nguyen), her old flame when she was using. He claims to be going straight and things begin to bubble again. This is interrupted by the fact that both Lionel and Tracy's brother are in business (and in Lionel's case, a sexual relationship) with Bradley (Sam Neill, complete menace), a ruthless drug dealer who is trying to retire. Tracy's hold on sobriety is tested to unfathomable lengths, and her trust in both brother and John is shaken to the core.

There aren't any real tricks to Little Fish. The film is blunt in its honesty, which may cause some people to misread it as boring. It will no doubt test some viewers' patience, but the key to the film's magic is in that spare nature, dissected visually by ace cinematographer Danny Ruhlman. The use of flares and the mix of hand-held and lingering Steadicam work (not completely unlike 21 Grams, without the graininess) give a sensuality and mystery to Sydney's Little Saigon district. Woods doesn't interweave stories but rather lays them out as being connected right from the start, taking away any hint of trickery.

More so, you couldn't ask for better actors. Blanchett, one of the best actresses working today, follows up her turn as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator with a much more subtle and measured performance that permeates throughout the film. Prepared to be floored by Weaving (you might know him as Agent Smith, Mr. Anderson). This Aussie fireball of an actor fills the screen with a hypnotic presence, whether he's trying to fight off an addiction or reminiscing with Bradley about their early days. There's also Noni Hazlehurst, who brings deep reserves of pain and regret to Tracy's mom. This is powerhouse acting, all around.

The fatal flaw of Little Fish is that this is, sadly, ground that has been treaded on before, quite often in fact. Woods is a talented director and somehow makes the honesty of the film feel surreal, somewhat like floating in limbo, but he doesn't have the foresight (or the screenplay) to go any farther than the normal pitfalls and promises of addicts and recoveries. It's not the worst thing for a young director to just hone his style on a small mood piece. There are always bigger fish to fry.

Little Fish

Facts and Figures

Run time: 114 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 8th September 2005

Distributed by: First Look Pictures

Reviews 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Rowan Woods

Producer: Richard Keddie, Vincent Sheehan, Liz Watts

Starring: as Tracy, as The Jockey, as Lionel, as Ray, Noni Hazlehurst as Janelle, as Moss, as Jenny, as Jonny, Lisa McCune as Laura, Nina Liu as Mai, Daniela Farinacci as Donna, as Denise, as Khiem, Anh Do as Tran, Jason Chong as Mingh, Natasha Beaumont as Tania, Bic Runga as Night Club Singer, Lisa Bailey as Suzy, Lan Tran as June, as Mr. Chan