Little Fish (15)

Directed by Rowan Woods, Written by Jacqueline Perske
Screening at FACT from 4th-10th August 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

There have been times in all our lives when it looked like something great might happen, but then it didn’t. This is major theme in Little Fish, which is really ironic because the ending of the film is a big disappointment too.

Tracy (Cate Blanchett) is a thirty-something who is struggling to get her life back together after a long-term smack addiction. Her recovery seems to be going ok, until her ex boyfriend Jonny (Dustin Nguyen) returns from an expensive rehab centre in Canada. Family friend and retired Aussie footy star Lionel (Hugo Weaving) is also struggling with his addiction. Can they escape their past and move up in the world? Can they heck!

There are many interesting ideas in this film, especially the sense that the characters are trapped more by their social circumstances than any chemical dependency. Woods lays on the atmospherics thicker than porcine feces, and in this case that’s a good thing. Blanchett and Weaving would be watchable if they were in the crowd at the World Paint Drying Championships, and there is strong support from an on form Sam Neil as a gay gangster plus Noni Hazelhurst as Tracy’s tormented mum. But Little Fish never rises above the level of moody mediocrity, due to poor character development and a ponderous plot. A frisson of frustration rippled through the audience at the end.

The Australian film industry currently brings in about $11.9 million, which isn’t all that much in the scheme of things. Little Fish was seized upon as proof that the country is moving up into the big pond, but that signals desperation amongst Australian filmmakers rather a classic unearthed. And fans of Tim Burton’s Big Fish should not expect a sequel…

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