February 1, 2021

SCREEN | Fading Memories – Remembering 'Little Fish'

"I find myself wondering how to build a future if you keep having to rebuild the past."
Olivia Cooke Jack O'Connell Chad Hartigan | Little Fish
IFC Films / Black Bear Pictures
Irish-American director Chad Hartigan faithfully adapts author Aja Gabel's short story of the same name as a moody sci-fi romantic drama. Little Fish focuses on a memory-destroying affliction within the history of a married couple and how their personal world folds in on itself as the outside world crumbles through its faded memories.

Filmed in Vancouver—doubling for Seattle, of course—in 2019, the accidentally timely indie romance starring Olivia Cooke and Jack O'Connell as vet technician Emma and musician Jude, our central romantic couple, feels more obviously prescient thanks to its coincidental premise about a global virus outbreak called NIA (Neuroinflammatory Affliction). This pandemic, however, affects people's minds as a kind of rapid Alzheimer's infecting the population as those suffering cling to their memories.

Screenwriter Mattson Tomlin channels Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and other time-bending romances for Little Fish's deeply melancholic mood. Starting at the end, the more straightforward yet still non-linear film moves back and forth through its timeline framing the romance as a forgotten relationship with the backdrop of a virus ravaging the rest of the population.

A kind of neurological pandemic love story, Little Fish focuses on the heartbreaking sadness of forgetting our loved ones. Its metaphor for the fleetingness of romance and relationships is just as crushing as it is sentimental. How memories build its emotional narrative of commitment just as it rips it apart feels poignant.

Little Fish is available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand starting February 5th.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire

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