LITTLE FISH ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Award-winning filmmaker Chad Hartigan is an incredibly versatile storyteller. After demonstrating his talent for stories depicting the ups and downs of relationships in both the nostalgic manhood tale “This is Martin Bonner” and the funny dramedy father-son examination “Morris from America”, this two-time Sundance-winner director returns with an astonishing sci-fi romantic melodrama, a beautifully structured film that marvelously evokes the sense of pure love and strong romance rarely seen on screen, or perhaps with the intensity and effects not seen since the “Before Sunrise” Linklater trilogy.
Two of the most accomplished and attractive contemporary British actors are on top of their games delivering the finest performances of their career: Olivia Cooke (“Sound of Metal”) and Jack O’Connell (“Unbroken”) give life to an incendiary, unconditional love affair that goes back and forth in time to recount details of their first meeting, encounters, hangouts and eventually, marriage. In a scary, accidentally timely atmosphere, the narrative introduces a mysterious disease devastating the population. Sort of a furiously fatal and stronger version of Alzheimer’s, NIA is an uncurable plague causing rapid memory loss on its victims. Their friends and neighbors get contaminated and they fight to maintain themselves free from the contagion, as well as their love and commitment.
Atmospheric, somber, melancholic and utterly romantic, the film is narrated by Emma (Cooke), disclosing her memories of pleasures and sadness, throughout her relationship with Jude (O’Connell), as well as her perspectives on the chaotic riots and social anxiety around her- the world goes crazy with the contagion, people wearing masks, running scared and showing violent reactions in the search of a cure (does it sound familiar, anyone?).
The great deal of the film is focusing on preserving the optimism and enduring love of the couple, as they face reality and tries at all costs to avoid the inevitable.
Blending a romantic story, a survivalist tale, a fantastic sci-fi and our current biggest fears, Hartigan scores a remarkably inventive, absorbing and crowd-pleasing film that plays with our heads and hearts with the same intensity and admirable effects.
Filled with smart, sharp dialogue, affectingly convincing performances from its lovebirds, this is an instant classic, entrancing, totally involving, enthusiastic and enchanting, as well as an urgent account on the importance of memory, and the objects, places and people that helps us keep it alive.
(IFC Films. 2/5. In Theaters and On Demand.)